Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all my lovely readers! May your holiday bring you happiness and peace, even if you’re unable to travel or meet with family in person. This year’s been rough to say the least, but times like these make the holidays all the more important. Remember, the holidays are what you make of them no matter what’s going on in the world around you. Stay safe, be merry and thank you all for making my holidays a little brighter. 🙂

I Played Corpse Party: Book of Shadows and Had Opinions About it

Note: I am not a video game reviewer, so forgive my terrible format and analysis as a game. Thank you.

Recently, I reviewed the anime Corpse Party: Tortured Souls for Animating Halloween, and it got me wanting to play some of the other Corpse Party games since I really hadn’t played any of them besides the first game and basically a retooled version of the first game…again. A good place to start from there appeared to be Corpse Party: Book of Shadows since that was a direct sequel to the original (though, again, remade again) game.

So I played through the whole thing and I’m uhm…..Kinda…confused.

The game isn’t really a sequel so much as it is a pre-mid-sequel. And that’s strange because the cutscene that plays each time you load the game is directly following the events of the first game (in one of the Wrong Ends – 6*8, which leads the Kisaragi students through a time loop of the events of Heavenly Host.) Naomi is near catatonic and her mother is distraught because she keeps talking about her ‘imaginary’ friend, Seiko, when Seiko’s existence was wiped from the earth after dying in Heavenly Host. It’s basically a longer version of what we got at the end of Tortured Souls.

Each episode covers a different story. No episode intersects with another nor is there any cohesion in creating an overall plot. It’s just a lot of different stories bundled together.

Episode One: Seal

The first episode does pickup where the opening cutscene left off, kinda. Naomi did suffer from a breakdown due to the events of the first game and is desperately trying to cope with the fact that her best friend and love interest, Seiko, is not only dead, but her existence was wiped from the world. However, that’s just a blip at the beginning. The real story is about the time loop the characters are currently in.

The Wrong End that they’re basing this game off of involves several of the characters surviving the events of Heavenly Host and leaving, but, tragically, they find themselves caught in a time loop. They are damned to suffer the events of Heavenly Host over and over for all eternity.

How do you build a story out of this type of ending?

Well….You don’t, really.

Much of the story shows what happened with Naomi and Seiko before the events of the first game. They enjoyed their first ever sleepover together and bonded more. Naomi notices a strange bruise forming on Seiko’s neck, but they don’t think much of it.

Then, when they get to school the following day, the events of the first game start to transpire. The one difference is that Satoshi starts freaking out when Ayumi brings up the Sachiko Ever After ritual. He panics and says it’s a horrible idea because, somehow, Satoshi is the only one who has memories of Heavenly Host right now. He explains that they’re in a time loop, but doesn’t actually convey any important information or try to destroy the paper doll or anything. Instead, he just flips and resigns himself to doing the ritual so he can at least help try to do something in Heavenly Host.

Satoshi, by the way, never gets his own story in this game. He gets a minor role in episode three and that’s the end of his role in this game entirely.

Naomi has been experiencing some instances of deja vu, but she’s not bothered enough by it to listen to Satoshi’s words, thus they’re all set to Heavenly Host.

Once everything is set into motion, Naomi starts getting more of her memories back, and she remembers that Seiko died via hanging in the girls’ bathroom. She becomes determined to save Seiko from that fate.

I became quite intrigued when this occurred because I thought the game would be about redoing the events but the survivors regain their memories and try to save the ones who canonically died in the first game.

That is not what happened.

Well, okay, that’s not true.

That’s kinda what happens, but in a horrible, horrible way.

Naomi DOES save Seiko from being hanged, but she forgot one key detail of Seiko’s death in the first game. Naomi was actually Seiko’s killer. Naomi had succumbed to something called the darkening, which is basically a dark influence the school has on its inhabitants over time that worsens with negative thoughts, feelings and witnessing stuff like dead bodies, gore and ghosts. While Naomi was in her darkened state, she hanged Seiko in the bathrooms, but she also completely forgot about it. She later has to face what she had done and make amends with Seiko’s spirit to free herself from the darkening and leave the school.

When Naomi saves Seiko from the noose, Seiko flips out at seeing the girl who tried to kill her and runs off.

Let me back up a tad and explain that, earlier, I had to disable a piano wire trap in order to pass through certain sections of the school. One wire could not be cut, and it was a neck-height wire on the stairs.

Guess what Seiko runs into.

Yup, she’s instantly beheaded by the piano wire, much to Naomi’s horror. Sachiko explains what this time loop actually is. While it is technically a time loop where everything happens exactly the same, there are some circumstances where the people will regain their memories and try to stop those who died from meeting their ultimate fates. She explains that this is not only pointless – it’s actually ill-advised and horrible for those who died. If these people are saved from what initially killed them, the school will actually devise a way for them to die anyway in a manner that is similar to their initial death but certainly worse.

IE, Seiko originally died via hanging and now she died via beheading, and both involved the mark on her neck.

I’m not sure I agree with that, though, because I think slowly suffocating while hanging and knowing your best friend – the girl you’re in love with – put you there is worse than being quickly beheaded on accident. I get that the latter is bloodier, but still.

The end of the episode is Naomi cradling Seiko’s disembodied head as she mourns the loss of her best friend once more.

What we have established here is, for any episode involving a character who canonically died in the first game, there is no saving them whatsoever. And if they do get ‘saved’ it’s only so they can suffer a worse fate, so why even try? I thought this would be a continuing problem throughout the game, but it really wasn’t – and not for the reasons you might think.

Episode Two: Demise

The aforementioned problem shines brilliantly in this episode as we follow Mayu who was the first to die in the original game. She became a wall sloppy joe via the three children ghosts. Now that the loop is occurring, she has spotty memories of that happening. She has a very foreboding bruise on her stomach that branches outward, and she spends a good chunk of the episode being concerned about it, but tries to ignore it.

This episode did give us a really nice moment between Ayumi and Yoshiki, ending up in the two of them embracing and even falling asleep on each other, so that was really nice, but the niceness ends there.

Also, this is the only episode in which Ayumi and Yoshiki show up (well, technically Ayumi shows up later, but I’ll get to that.) so we don’t learn much else about their stories, which kinda makes sense because they both canonically survived. Also, despite Ayumi’s heightened spiritual powers, neither she nor Yoshiki has any memories of Heavenly Host, so I guess they’d just do pretty much the same things they did before, barring this one part with Mayu since she died long before anyone else came into contact with her.

Mayu and Yoshiki also rescue a girl from another school named Nana, who has similarly foreboding bruises in the forms of straight crisscrossing lines on her thighs, even though, as far as I know, she never died from that. (In the first game, she dies from having her tongue ripped out.)

Nana is in some weird trap involving her being tied to a bust on a desk. The bust is tied to a bucket of sharp items over her head. If she flails too much or if someone tries to save her recklessly, the bucket will fall and she’ll surely die from the wounds. I have no clue why she’s in this trap or who put her in it. I’d assume it was Yoshikazu, but for what purpose? Why not just kill her where she stands like he killed everyone else? Also, her original death couldn’t have been retconned to the bucket thing because then she’d have bruises all over her face, right? I just don’t understand this trap.

Anyway, the bruises get worse the closer a character is to their time of dying. Nana’s get noticeably worse and, when she goes off by herself to try and find her friends – alone, because she’s a dumbass – she gets caught by Yoshikazu and we discover why she has bruises on her thighs – Yoshikazu smashed her legs off with his giant hammer. Not sure if this is canonical either because, despite the certainty that something must’ve happened to her legs in her first death, the bruises were clean lines, which wouldn’t happen if her legs were smashed off.

That’s not even her cause of death anyway. Yes, this really, really awful injury doesn’t kill her, which just makes this death sequence all the more horrific. Mayu is forced to just sit there and watch as Yoshikazu drags Nana away as she’s screaming for help because Mayu knows Nana’s probably as good as dead anyway, and Mayu would never survive trying to go against Yoshikazu. Nana’s actual death scene comes in a different episode.

Seeing Nana get her legs lopped off like that did make Mayu significantly more concerned about her own situation. She dared to check up on her own bruises, which had gotten drastically darker in color. She even started getting one on her face. Mayu starts panicking because she knows what’s coming and is quickly realizing she won’t be able to avoid it.

Now, at this point, I was wondering how the hell you could make Mayu’s death worse. The poor girl was flung into a wall at like 60 MPH and exploded into a mass of unrecognizable guts and gore. How could that be made worse?

Well, Sachiko found a way. Mayu is cornered in the infirmary, a place she should have been avoiding anyway because that’s where the ghosts of the children initially started influencing her before they killed her. Her bruises get so bad that they start bleeding. Sachiko brings in the ghosts of the children to give her a fate worse that her original one, which is being slowly ripped apart by the bare hands of the ghosts.

Yup….yup…that’s definitely worse. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we still play as Mayu as she dies. You know the instant she passes on. It’s pretty heartbreaking.

This episode did a good job in making me care more about Mayu, but she’s still a pretty bland character. She has a love of theater, loves Morishige and is good at covering a wide range of jobs. She’s also very kind and sweet. I appreciate them giving Mayu more of a role in this game since she was pretty much just there to be the first shock death in the original game. You’d think they would’ve done more for her character originally since she was the main reason they did the Sachiko Ever After ritual, but nah.

Episode Three: Encounter

Now we’re into full prequel territory. This episode focuses on Yui Shishido, the teacher of the class that gets sent to Heavenly Host. I believe it’s the day before the events of Corpse Party go down. She’s horrendously sick, and Satoshi, through a lot of convoluted writing, ends up taking care of her in her home since she’s completely out of it. As Yui slumbers, she thinks back to when she was a student in Kisaragi Academy. She had always aspired to be a teacher, and her dream was finally becoming a reality.

She had a crush on a guy named Tsukasa, who became a close friend to her as they neared graduation.

One day, she’s approached by an old woman in the pouring rain who tries to warn her of the dangers of Kisaragi Academy. She told her to not go to school that day and even tried to give her a paper charm to protect her. Yui, ultimately, cannot heed her warnings because she had an important interview at school that day. The woman, who turns out to be Makina Shinozaki, Sachiko’s great aunt, collapses in the rain and Yui is forced to leave her mother and the paramedics to care for Makina as she goes to school. Everything with the interview goes well, but Makina dies while Yui is at school.

Later that night, Yui rushes back to school to retrieve Tsukasa’s special lucky pencil. However, as midnight approaches, she’s reminded of an old ghost story her friends were telling her about, which is the story of Yoshie, Sachiko’s mother. She haunts the school at night, and her friends thought Yoshie might target Yui specifically since she wants to be a teacher and Yoshie was a school nurse.

Sure enough, weird things start happening in the school, and Yui gets targeted by Yoshie’s spirit. With the help of Tsukasa and the spirit of Makina, Yui is able to escape, though she does still experience great pain in her arm after Yoshie tried to crush it. This whole event is played off like it was a dream. They suggest that Yui fell unconscious after getting to the school and just imagined everything that happened, but she still had a severe pain in her arm that couldn’t be explained. In the end, it’s rather sweet because she holds hands with Tsukasa in the light of the sunrise. However, we never learn what became of Tsukasa after they graduated.

Sadly, when Yui wakes up and speaks with Satoshi, we see that she has a big bruise on her arm, which is poking at the fact that her arm was crushed under the cabinet before she died in Heavenly Host. This is the only episode where Yui has a role, so we’re basically left to assume that she’s barreling towards death in the time loop too. Luckily, we don’t have to watch that here.

This is definitely the best episode in the game. I love Yui, and it was nice to see her get a sweet and happy backstory, even if she is destined for a horrible, albeit still noble and the least gratuitous of the bunch, death. I wish she ended up with Tsukasa. He was a sweetheart, and I would’ve liked her to have all the happiness in the world if she was just going to be wiped from existence later.

Episode Four: Purgatory

Focusing on Naho’s friend, Sayaka, it’s basically just a retelling of Naho’s story with lots of filler put into it. Naho is a perfectly normal girl until Kou went to Heavenly Host without her – then she just goes off the deep end, sacrificing her best friend, Sayaka, so she could go after him, and putting up the wrong instructions for the Sachiko Ever After ritual on her blog so more people would wind up in Heavenly Host as ‘samples’ for Kou to study. It’s a complete 180 that comes out of nowhere. Maybe she just snapped because she thought she lost Kou already, but there is seriously nothing properly leading up to this sudden change in behavior. I’d say maybe it was Sachiko’s influence since her presence was following her before this happened, but I can’t be certain. I’ve never seen an instance of darkening outside of Heavenly Host.

After they enter Heavenly Host, it’s just a waiting game until Sayaka dies. I say this not only because Sayaka is canonically dead in the first game, long before the group ever shows up, but also because the very first scene is of her being attacked by Yoshikazu. The rest of the episode is a flashback showing how she reached this point.

The very last scene did make me a little sad for her because that was a terrible way to go out, and Sachiko was a total bitch. Like many others in Heavenly Host, she was starting to die anyway since she spent days wandering around the school with no food or water. In the original game, she dies from succumbing to the darkening. In this game, she nearly does so but is then caught by Yoshikazu and beaten to death with his sledgehammer.

Oh and as some added misery, we witness Nana dying via getting her tongue ripped out. That poor girl can’t catch a break. It was a horrible scene to sit through….

Episode Five: Shangri-La

This episode follows Morishige throughout his time in Heavenly Host. I found this episode to be the most pointless because not only does he pretty much not do anything we don’t already know he was doing, but it doesn’t even follow his story to the end. He never finds out that this ‘beautiful’ ripped apart corpse he finds is Mayu, and he doesn’t even have any bruises on his face to indicate he’s going to smash his face into a window and kill himself in grief over her death and the realization he’s been defiling her corpse this entire time. His last lines are talking about how he’s going to just hide his corpse pictures when he gets back to the regular world instead of deleting them like he was planning to do.

Out of all of the characters who died, he’s the one I most wouldn’t mind seeing die again, but nope.

He also runs into some characters from Byakudan Senior High School, but he doesn’t really affect their story that much, other than freaking them out because he’s so creepy around corpses.

There’s an alternate ending that you have to get by going back once the episode is cleared. This ending shows Yuuya killing Fukuroi and Mitsuki, but that’s pretty much it.

Episode Six: Mire

Okay, here’s where things get a little more confusing. I thought this entire game was following the events of the Wrong End 6*8 (The time loop ending) but apparently that’s wrong. This episode takes place during the events of Wrong End 2*4, wherebasically everyone barring Ayumi either dies or succumbs to the darkening, leaving Ayumi alone and stranded in Heavenly Host because she has no one to do the ritual with. In regards to this episode in particular, this is the ending where both Yuka and Yuuya die – so most of it is stuff you’d already know if you got that ending. I never got that ending, so it was new for me, but if you did get it you’d be simply going through the motions.

We see Yuka after she’s been separated from Satoshi (Which should have been an indicator right there that we weren’t in the time loop because if Satoshi was dumb enough to let Yuka go off on her own again when he clearly has a good chunk of his memories, he’s too dumb to live.) She’s about to be killed by Yuuya, but her kindness causes him to have a breakdown. She then narrowly escapes Sachiko and Yoshikazu, not seeing Sachiko before fleeing due to a blackout.

She then gets shifted to the abandoned bomb shelter area where she comes face to face with Sachiko and decides to be kind to her since she seems to be a nice spirit, not realizing who Sachiko really is. Sachiko asks if Yuka will do anything for her and Yuka, taking a big sisterly type of role, says she will. Then Sachiko starts requesting things from her. She wants her socks because her feet are cold. She wants her shoes because her feet hurt. And she wants her hairpin because her hair keeps getting in her eyes. You’re finally given a decision in whether or not to listen to Sachiko’s requests at this point. You can either tell her she can’t have the hairpin or give it to her. Either way, Yuka dies, but the proper ending is obtained by giving the hairpin to Sachiko, which causes Yuka to start falling under the forces of the darkening. She starts giving Sachiko literally whatever she wants without question, even if she really doesn’t want to.

For example, Sachiko wants Yuka’s hair, and she obtains this by ripping her scalp nearly clean off with her bare hands. Yuka still goes on acting like this is normal, though internally she’s panicking. Sachiko asks for one more thing – her life. Yuka agrees. Yoshikazu then drops by to bludgeon Yuka in the head with his sledgehammer, killing her.

…..So…yeah this episode was also pretty pointless. All it served to do was show us more proof that Yuka is this innocent little kind angel girl before viciously caving in her head with a hammer.

Granted, it did also shows us some of Yuuya’s backstory, which can be summed up in ‘He’s always been a psychopath.’ We get a flashback to Yuuya as a child. The first thing he does of note is viciously beat up another child and laugh about it. Then he’s basically disowned by his family, though his big brother and sister still seem to care about him. Even then, Yuuya’s still a psycho. He kills ‘an animal’ (they never specify what it was) and thinks it’s funny, he gets into a fist fight with his older brother and he just generally acts like an asshole. He eventually started pretending he was a decent guy in order to fit int while secretly not giving a crap about anyone but himself.

He did, however, say he wanted a little brother or sister to see how his older siblings viewed him, which is where Yuka came in.

In this version, Yuuya kinda-ish turns good before he’s murdered by Yoshikazu, but there’s really no redeeming this guy so I didn’t care. Probably a mistake putting this episode right after the one in which, in the secret ending, he viciously stabs two of his friends to death. One of which, he actually gets pissed because she wouldn’t scream for him like he wanted. I know the darkening has some weight here, but you just confirmed he was a psychopathic murderer even before he came to Heavenly Host, so I don’t know what you want from me.

Episode Seven: Tooth

The final episode is a midquel to the first game in which we follow Tohko. I think I saved Naomi in the first game so I never got Tohko’s part. Though, according to what I read, that path just leads to a bad end anyway.

Tohko is one of several people from Byakudan Senior High School who is lost in Heavenly Host at the same time as the Kisaragi group. Yuuya is one of these students, and Tohko has a bit of a crush on him.

The story starts out with a little backstory on how they wound up doing the Sachiko Ever After ritual (though why they included Kai, a guy they all pretty much hate, I’ll never know.) We then skip forward a little bit to a point where Ryousuke has had his leg lopped off by a booby trap. They’re all frantically trying to find him some help before he bleeds out.

Long story short, Kai is an asshole who is the only person I’ve ever seen in Heavenly Host who tried to simply leave (Mayu mentioned trying to jump the fence behind the pool area to see if she could escape, but said she had a bad feeling it would either loop back around or she’d be lost in the darkness forever.) Spoiler Alert: We never really know what happened to him out there, but he comes back in a daze with his knife embedded in his chest. Tomohiro is loyal to Ryousuke to a fault and quickly goes crazy as he tries to deal with the situation. Yuuya is cool as a cucumber because he’s a psychopath, and Emi just kinda reacts to things and screams a lot. Mitsuki and Fukuroi are the only ones separated from them.

After Kai leaves them to go out the door without the others, Yuuya and Tohko return to where Ryousuke is being cared for only to find all of them with sullen faces. Ryousuke has taken a turn for the worse and they don’t believe he’ll make it even if, by some miracle, they do make it out and find help. They rush to get him out anyway, hanging on to a sliver of hope.

Tohko tries to find Mitsuki real quick before they leave since she thought she heard her calling out earlier. After she fails in her quest to find Mitsuki, she returns to the group to find that Ryousuke has passed away from his injuries.

Later, Yuuya is revealed to be full-on nutso as he kicks Ryousuke’s body down the stairs to prove that he’s actually dead to Tomohiro, who is so distraught that he refuses to believe Ryousuke is dead. Tomohiro accidentally breaks his arm by falling down the stairs in an attempt to get to Ryousuke and he flees from Yuuya, who is just standing by in eerie silence. Emi also runs from him, though she seemingly lies to Tohko about what Yuuya did – claiming Yuuya had kicked Tomohiro down the stairs and broke his arm.

Tohko then has to run from Yuuya, not believing that Yuuya did such a terrible thing, even though he also now has Kai’s bloody knife in his hands. She remains in disbelief until Yuuya starts beating her viciously with his fists. She manages to get away, but spits out one of her teeth as a result of the assault.

…..Ugh…..eh…Yuuya finds the tooth….and spends a ridiculous amount of time slowly licking it, chewing on it and finally swallowing it…….Euehgbhghdsfkjhdksajfhdslkfjhsdakfjh. It takes a lot to make me cringe and gag in horror – that did it for me. It was accompanied by gross sound effects and everything. Ugh. Why did he swallow it?! Even for a crazy person, that couldn’t have been pleasant.

Anyway, him eating the tooth is how the game ends.

No. I’m not kidding.

Well, technically, that’s how the game ends.

Before I get to that point, my thoughts on this episode are, it’s very much okay. It was nice to get a little more backstory on the other Byakudan students, but it wasn’t much and the episode just kinda stops. I’d say it’s probably the third best episode behind Encounter and Demise.

However, with this being the end, I do have to say that this game would be insanely confusing if you never played the first game. Hell, I played the first game more than once and I still ended up being confused at some points.

In regards to this being technically the final episode, there is one more episode but it’s not only locked it’s also hidden. The episodes are in a masterlist that you select one by one when you’re starting up the game (Unless you’re starting from a save file) You unlock a new episode with the completion of a previous chapter. When Tooth is done, the list is complete. There are no grayed out episodes to unlock.

However, there is one final episode, Prologue – Blood Drive, that can be revealed and unlocked under two circumstances – either 1) you have to transfer your data from a completed Corpse Party PC game (the re-re-remastered version), which I wasn’t going to do because that would mean completing the entire game again and I’ve done it more than enough on the older versions, or 2) you have to unlock every single ending in this game, which, well, fuck that.

Did I mention that this game is more of a visual novel than it is an actual game? There are hours of text scrolls that you have to go through to get to the options that present these various endings. This wouldn’t be so bad if you knew you had to do this to get the true ending and saved at each option, but I certainly didn’t know that. Hell, I didn’t even know you could save during an option until about two and half episodes in, and I never would have known there was a hidden final episode if I wasn’t reading a Wiki.

Not to mention that some endings are obtained not just through the options but also depend on whether you obtained certain items or did certain things. I know some people are completionists and would do this anyway, but a lot of people would miss out on the true ending either because they didn’t know that episode existed or didn’t want to spend hours upon hours trying to get the endings they missed.

Granted, considering this episode is called Prologue I can imagine Blood Drive would have this be their first episode, but I don’t know yet.

Prologue – Blood Drive

lol i cheetd

Okay I didn’t ‘cheat’ but I did just look up the final episode on Youtube to see what happens.

Even this episode doesn’t follow the storyline they were going for at the start of this game since it is building off the true ending where Naomi, Satoshi, Yuka, Yoshiki and Ayumi all survive, but they’re all still suffering because no one has any memories of those who were lost in Heavenly Host and any evidence they even existed is either gone or distorted (IE, any photos of them that the survivors had on their phones have the faces blacked out.)

Ayumi tells Naomi that she plans on going to the Shinozaki estate, Sachiko and Yoshie’s old house, to see if they can find anything that would help them bring their friends back. Naomi heads there with her, but when they get to the tiny quiet village they find that everyone starts acting very panicky when the Shinozaki estate is brought up. They hitch a ride with some truck driver to the estate, which is pretty far away from the main village, and the road leading there is so bad that it’s a stretch to even call it a road.

When they get as far as the truck driver can take them, they leave the truck, but the driver says he’ll wait for them since he doesn’t want to leave two teenage girls alone here, especially since it’s getting dark.

When they arrive at the estate, they’re shocked to see that the entire building was demolished. Nothing is left save for an old shed that, surprisingly, still has electricity. The shed contains some documents and such but nothing really that helpful to their cause.

It’s now dark out, so they head back to the truck, deciding to come back another time and investigate more then. However, another shock awaits them at the truck – the driver is gone, but the lights are on and the truck is running. They wait around for a bit, but it doesn’t seem like the driver is coming back. They can’t get into the vehicle to warm up and take shelter because it’s locked. They decide to head down the road on foot.

After a long while of walking, they’re devastated to find that they’ve somehow looped around back to the truck, which makes no sense to them because they were heading downhill the entire time. They try again a couple of times, but each time they loop back around to the truck.

At this point, two things are clear – the driver is seriously never coming back, and anyone would’ve just broken a window on the truck to warm up, get some shelter and maybe even just take the truck back down the hill. I mean, considering what’s happening, I can bet anything that even taking the truck would just loop them around, but it’d be smart to try.

Instead, they decide the best course of action is to go back uphill to the barn because there is electricity and some mats to sleep on until morning. Because taking shelter in the creepy abandoned shed previously owned by two murderous ghosts is very smart.

When they arrive, they get a third surprise – the Shinozaki estate is glowing and floating in front of them. Well, I guess if they can have a ghost school a ghost house isn’t to be questioned.

They decide to go in the house, which, despite being a ghost, is still corporeal. Like in Heavenly Host, everything is solid, but many of the items are secured to the floor or tables. We get some interesting background on the Shinozaki family tree. It’s filled with women who are ‘gifted’ as in they have strong spiritual powers that are linked to witchcraft. It seems Ayumi is part of Sachiko’s family afterall, which is why she has her own abilities to sense ghosts and whatnot. Ayumi also remembered her sistertelling her stories about witchcraft in the past which seemingly lines up with what they were reading. However, a weird fact about their family is that males are not born into it. Men typically marry into the family and then they all suddenly die after their child is born. Indeed, Sachiko’s father is not around and all pictures of him have his face blacked out.

They’re terrified to hear foreign footsteps around the house, so they hide in a mysterious small room which houses a creepy necromonicon-esque book – you guessed it, the titular Book of Shadows.

This is the first time the entire game that they’ve mentioned the Book of Shadows. The thing that this game is specifically named after isn’t even mentioned in the game, let alone shown, until the very end, and it’s in an episode that you might not even know exists and/or have to jump through hoops to unlock.

I am at a loss for words.

The Book of Shadows is some flesh-covered ancient tome that is filled with powerful spells. Ayumi is shocked the book is even in Japan let alone the Shinozaki’s ghost house.

Ayumi tries to read the book, but it’s mostly in French with some runes and whatnot peppered throughout. However, some notes on the side, supposedly written by Yoshie, are in Japanese. Ayumi reads for a bit and then, I’m not even kidding here, basically just says to herself “Eh…that’s good enough. Let’s raise the dead.”

And they do just that. They start a ritual to bring their friends back to life. All they need is a pentagram, some candles, three paper dolls to represent the two of them and their intended target and a photo of the deceased followed by a long, long, long spell. They decide to bring back Mayu first. Surprisingly, the spell works, but not really.

Like so many times with hinky witchcraft resurrections, the ‘Mayu’ they brought back isn’t really Mayu. Remember how I said any photos of the people who died in Heavenly Host had their faces blacked out? This Mayu has a blacked out face. She just kept calling for Morishige over and over until she suddenly fell to the ground. Bright red runes start appearing all over Mayu’s body and she pretty much exploded and died again.

Before they can even process what happened, those same runes appear on Ayumi’s body. Saw blades and screwdrivers from the shed start piercing those markings in an effort to kill her.

The paper doll that represented Ayumi is on fire. Believing this to be the cause of the problem, Naomi tries her best to extinguish the fire, but she’s unsuccessful. Naomi’s paper doll starts catching fire next, meaning they’re both sure to die in mere moments. Just then, Ayumi’s sister, Hinoe, bursts in and extinguishes the flames with a special powder, saving them both, even though Ayumi is still badly wounded. (How did she even know they were there?)

Ayumi cries in her sister’s arms, and all seems well and good…..

Until Hinoe’s head explodes.

I don’t know why.

And that’s the actual end of the game, which, like I said, is really a teaser for the following game, Blood Drive.

This was a pretty good episode. And it actually was a, get this, SEQUEL to the original game. Go figure. And no, I don’t count the time loop episodes as being sequels. They didn’t accomplish anything and they took place during the original game, technically.

Don’t get me wrong, the stories they had to tell here were okay for the most part, but besides Yui’s backstory and Mayu’s episode, I don’t feel like I really got much out of playing the game as a whole. There was no cohesion between the episodes, which can be fine but they went a bit too out of whack for my tastes, especially considering they’re building off a game with numerous endings and not sticking to one ending to act as its base. Plus, they ended on a completely random note.

It just baffles me that the one episode you’d think would be necessary to this game is actually hidden and requires a bunch of work to unlock. I’m not really angry at it, I’m just confused. This whole game confuses me.

Gameplay

It’s pretty standard point and click. Each room and hallway is a static screen. Your cursor turns into a reticle, and you enter into a scanning mode. In this mode, you can click on anything interactable and find key items, disable traps, read messages etc. Nearly all of the important items are marked with shining lights, making them even easier to suss out. There are some minor ‘puzzles’ you have to solve in order to move forward, but they’re very easy to figure out. I only got stuck twice, and even then it was just a matter of me not knowing I had to interact with something a second time to get what I needed.

You move through the rooms by bringing up your map via the center mouse button and selecting which room you want to travel to. Some areas are blocked off for whatever reason – locked doors, gaping holes in the floor, booby traps etc. And you either have to wait for a shift to occur to change the dimension in order to pass, or you have to find some way to unlock the door, get across the gap etc.

There were two timed events near the start of the game. I really thought they’d introduce more mechanics like that or increase the time crunch as the game went on, but sadly those were the only ones in the game and no other game mechanics were introduced. You also have an inventory, but it’s more or less pointless besides to show you that you still hold certain items in case you’re restarting after a Wrong End or something.

In addition to quick saves occurring after certain events, you can also save at any time by right-clicking – and I suggest you do this at pretty much any option screen in order to save yourself if you get a Wrong End or to help you along if you want to get every ending.

Final Thoughts

I did enjoy myself while playing this game, but it just seems like a jumbled mess of side stories instead of being a proper sequel to the original game. While some episodes did offer interesting perspectives and fleshed out some of the more minor characters further, I didn’t really care about what was presented to me outside of Yui’s backstory and Mayu’s episode. Most of the characters from Byakudan are pretty boring. Kai is interesting, but he’s also an asshole who really only gets one or two scenes of focus before he’s stabbed. I guess I also liked Fukuroi and Mitsuki, and they got a decent amount of focus, but it wasn’t worth the price of admission, ya know?

I’m also a bit disappointed that this is mostly a visual novel instead of being an RPG like the other games were. I can kinda forgive a lackluster story in a game if the gameplay is fun, but there really isn’t much to the point and click aspect. There are some interesting notes that you can read throughout, but that’s about it. Apparently Blood Drive is in more of an RPG format, so we’ll see how I do there.

Screencaps Courtesy of the Corpse Party Fandom Community.


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Animating Halloween | Hell Girl: Three Vessels Episode 7 – Liar Review

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Plot: The new kid in town, Atsushi, seems like a great guy. He’s good at sports, the girls love him and he’s even spending his free time taking care of his ailing mother. However, his friend Washizu discovers that he’s living in a world of lies constructed by his mother.

Breakdown: This episode is a bit tricky, and the ending might make it seem like it’s stupid, but I really think it’s the best episode of the season so far.

Atsushi is in a scarily realistic abuse scenario. He tells people that his father is very successful and is working a lot out in the city, so he’s never really home much. His mother is very sick, and he has to immediately leave his friends after school to shop for dinner and care for her.

However, the reality is that he was told to say those things by his mother. The true story is that his father abandoned them (???? It’s not entirely clear what happened to him, but the strongest implication is that he left them.) and his mother is a terribly abusive lazy bitch. All she does the entire day is watch TV and munch on junk food. His mother told him to lie about their situation to avoid people gossiping about them or thinking she’s a terrible mother. She demands that Atsushi immediately come home after school and do everything around the house for her. She doesn’t work, she doesn’t try to make money or clean or anything, she can’t even pay rent. She just tells Atsushi to weasel rent money from their grandfather.

If he doesn’t follow her orders to a tee, she beats him and guilt trips him by claiming he’s betraying her just like his father. Then she cries and whines and tells him he’s all she has left, which is some crazy accurate abuse. Yell at the victim for doing no wrong, beat them then make THEM feel bad about the situation by playing the victim and crying and then trap them into staying by making them think you need them. It is really scary how accurately they portrayed that.

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Washizu becomes quick friends with Atsushi, but becomes worried about him when he starts suspecting that he’s lying about his situation. His suspicions are confirmed when Atsushi tells him the truth, but when Washizu starts suggesting they tell their teacher and friends about it, he reneges and tells him to forget everything he said.

Here’s where things start getting tricky. Despite Washizu claiming he hasn’t told a soul about Atsushi’s situation, rumors start spreading around school and the neighborhood, which makes Atsushi’s mom upset. She eventually starts going out on the town, to put it lightly, while acting like she’s allow to, even under the lie, because sick people can’t be expected to sit at home all day. Her night time activities make the rumors even worse, obviously.

Washizu tries again to convince Atsushi to tell their teacher and friends the truth. Look, I get his motives, I do, but what is telling the truth going to do? What is his teacher supposed to do? All it’s going to do is get him beaten, people whispering incessantly and he’ll be pitied. I doubt they’d be able to get him removed from the home or anything. He’s nearly an adult, and his mother never seems to leave visible marks on him.

During the conversation, Washizu discovers that Atsushi has a straw doll. Knowing the rumors about Hell Girl, he tries to convince him to not use the doll and to just tell the truth. It’s not so much about not killing his mother, oddly, but moreso because he knows of the price of using Hell Girl’s services and he doesn’t want Atsushi to damn his soul for someone like his mother.

Atsushi demands he leave the house and stay out of his business, so Washizu decides to get further proof that Atsushi’s mother is such a horrible person that she’s not worth going to hell for.

I kinda get his view, but it’s also totally backwards from what Hell Girl is all about. Typically, if you find out your target is a worse person than you initially thought, it just makes you more determined to pull the string. Most people don’t want to pull the string on targets who are good people.

One night, Washizu brings Atsushi out to a seedy part of town where his mother has supposedly been sleeping around. They spot her walking out of a bar with a random guy and putting her mouth all over his mouth. He’s apprehensive, however, because he’s heard rumors that she has a kid. Atsushi’s mother brushes it off and says she has no child and they continue about their barhopping.

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Content that he’s finally convinced Atsushi of what a terrible person his mother is and how he should just stop lying for her, Washizu is shocked to see him pull out the doll and pull the string in a fit of rage.

Stopping myself right there, let me back up. Again, remember Washizu is the only one who could’ve started those rumors. Weird, right? What does he gain out of starting the rumors? Nothing, really, besides sewing the seeds for Atsushi to be honest since, why bother continuing to lie when everyone is already starting to believe the rumor?

That’s not all that’s weird. He’s seemingly kinda manipulative. In the first conversation he had with Atsushi about his home life, Washizu put all of the blame on his mother. In the second conversation, after he discovered the straw doll, he started also blaming Atsushi seemingly to make him…feel better? He legitimately said “I mean, you have some fault too. Since you listened to her and lied. If I were you, I wouldn’t have.” I nearly had to pause, because I hate these types of people who say shit like this. Hypothetical bullshit based on nothing.

If you’ve never been in someone’s situation before, don’t act like you’re better than them and would never do the supposedly shameful or bad thing they’re doing. All it does is make you look like a self-righteous jerk who can’t actually sympathize.

Finally, when Washizu showed Atsushi the scene at the bar, he had a weird smirk on his face. Why? I don’t know. He even laughed when he told Atsushi “Got it? She’s that kind of person.” Atsushi literally just heard his mother verbally disown him in order to have a better chance at getting laid, and he’s laughing like it’s some victorious moment.
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So, anyway, Washizu was the target.

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Yeah, I was surprised too, but not as much as you’d think I was. Throughout the first half of the episode, I was pretty convinced it was the mother. However, when they were having the second conversation, I actually gasped because the way Washizu was talking and the fact that they weren’t discussing how the rumors got started made me realize that Washizu was likely to be the target. I wasn’t too sure about it, but I was convinced enough to not really be all that surprised when he showed up in the hell torture.

The hell torture this time around actually isn’t goofy for a change. Washizu is hanging over a bottomless pit, hanging on by a branch. The hell team are all collected above. Washizu yells at them to help him, but despite saying they’ll get him help they just stand there telling him to hang on. After a bit, they lecture him on staying out of other people’s business, claiming he just wanted praise and wasn’t actually taking Atsushi’s feelings into consideration and just caused more and more problems for him.

It’s implied that he’s a hypocrite because he yells to them that they’re acting all nice when they’re just enjoying his pain even though he might have been doing the same thing to Atsushi (See: The weird shadowy smirk) Also, like the hell team are doing here, pretending like he’s trying to help but is actually not doing anything to help.

When you view the situation from this angle, the suggestion of telling the teacher and the other students makes more sense. Like I said, realistically, doing that wouldn’t really help him at all – it would just piss his mother off and make him a pity case for everyone else. Case and point, just the rumor going around of the truth made his life miserable and pissed his mother off.

One can definitely argue that his mother deserved that familiar ferry ride way more than Washizu, in fact Atsushi visited the website before Washizu did anything, but the way I figure it his life was manageably miserable before Washizu butted his nose in. After that, everything just got worse and worse. No one was harassing him or anything, but people were gossiping all around him and people were avoiding him.

I feel like a part of Washizu did have Atsushi’s best interests in mind, but he either went about it horribly or really was just in it for his own pleasure, ultimately. It’s honestly hard to tell. There was one moment where he was alone and thinking to himself that he had to help Atsushi, so I think he was at least partially genuine, but it’s unclear.

You ever hear of that philosophy that no one ever does anything completely selflessly? Like, even if you’re donating to charity anonymously, you’re still doing it because it makes you feel good? I kinda feel like that was in play with him. Like he got pleasure from watching Atsushi suffer, but he still told himself it was for Atsushi’s sake and may not have even really registered his own motives while he was doing these things. It’s something to think about.

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As for Atsushi’s life after the string pull….well, it’s actually really sad and kinda scary.

Atsushi basically has a complete psychological breakdown after this. He starts living in a complete delusion of the lie. He acts as if his made-up successful father is finally spending more time at home, so he’s making a nice fancy meal for the whole family, which his bitch of a mother obviously doesn’t appreciate. When she complains about the meal he’s cooking, he throws the hot skillet of meat at the wall, and with one of the craziest expressions I’ve ever seen in Hell Girl, he suggests that all three of them go out to eat. He’s acting so nuts and so broken that even his mother is stunned and afraid. I honestly believed the episode would end with him killing his mother, but I guess his story just ends with him being trapped in a delusion to avoid the pain of his real life.

The end.

Goddamn, that was a heavily layered depressing episode. It’s also frustrating because the one person who deserved punishment didn’t get any.

Did you see what I meant about how you can easily interpret this episode as being stupid, but when you get down to it, it’s really not? I can still totally see why people would think it’s stupid, given that the mother is still alive and well, a seemingly nice kid ended up in hell and our main character ended up going bananas and was marked for hell, but I actually think this is the best episode of season three so far.

It has a realistic and sad conflict, a likable main character, a hateable would-be target who didn’t go overboard with how terrible she was, and a red herring /w plot twisty target swap at the end. Not to mention how terrible the episode as a whole makes you feel, and not in that cheap ‘all humans are scum’ way. This was just sad because it was bad circumstances. If Washizu really was genuine, then he just chose a horrible way to try to help Atsushi. And Atsushi was just a victim the entire time. Hell, you could even dig up some sympathy for Atsushi’s mom if her husband really did leave her……Not a whole lot of sympathy, she’s still a shitty person, but still. Even the hell torture was a lot better this time.

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All in all, I really like this episode, even if it does bum me out that nothing happened to the mother. She was literally the cause of all of this. Something, anything, should have happened to her in the end. I guess now she has to live with a psychotic son who may be so disturbed that he could one day kill her….that’s something.

……Oh yeah, Yuzuki was in this episode. Like always, she just watched all of this happen from afar. The only time she did anything was when she offered to take Atsushi to a vegetable market for more affordable vegetables and we get confirmation that she does indeed live alone since her parents both work a lot of hours. I don’t quite understand why that automatically means she lives alone…Just because they’re not home often doesn’t mean they don’t live there. Or do they just live somewhere else because of their work?

Anyway, I’m already so sick of the transformation sequence that I’ve decided to just fast forward through it whenever it pops up. It’s not like a magical girl transformation sequence or anything. Those are fun. I can sit through those recycled scenes all the time. The Hell Girl transformation is just a lot of Yuzuki yelling in pain and boring shit happening.

Rating: 8.5/10


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My AniManga-ish Thoughts on Aishiteruze Baby

A long, long time ago in a place….directly where I am now, maybe a few feet away, Twix watched an anime called Aishiteruze Baby. Twix was not one to be easily swayed by stories of little children. No, she was a jaded old grump whose thoughts would instantly jump to ‘Oh god, here comes an annoyance.’ whenever a child character would be introduced to, well, pretty much anything, which she’s now realizing is insanely ironic because her favorite TV show as a kid was Rugrats.

The point is, it would’ve taken quite the lovable little kid and a nice heartwarming story for her to really be invested in an anime centered on a little kid. And Aishiteruze Baby was that anime.

I dunno why I keep doing the storybook-esque intro. Anyway, it’s been eons since I watched Aishiteruze Baby. In fact, it was one of the first dozen shows I ever reviewed.

Aishiteruze Baby is the story of five year old Yuzuyu who has been temporarily abandoned by her mother. Her teenage cousin, Kippei, is forced to take care of her until his family can figure out where Yuzuyu’s mother is and when or if she intends on coming back for her daughter. The story explores how Kippei adjusts to being a surrogate parent to Yuzuyu while also trying to balance his own life, and how Yuzuyu copes with being abandoned by her mother as more and more time goes on.

I really enjoyed the series when I first watched it. Kippei was a sweetheart, his relationship to Kokoro, his stoic yet lonely girlfriend, was nicely done, the stories were cute and heartwarming with some well-done drama and tension, and Yuzuyu was a PWECIOUS WITTLE CUPCAKE!! She was such a little sweetie, and she was so adorable, and she loved Kippei so much, and she was so cute, and so sweet and she so cute and she was so sweet and she so cute and she was s—

*cough* Sorry.

I really enjoyed watching Kippei mature and take to his new role as a parent more and more to the point where he was excitedly doing stuff for Yuzuyu, even without anyone telling him to. I loved seeing Yuzuyu have fun with Kippei and everyone else, even if it was tough watching her whenever she’d be reminded of her mother or when she was thinking she was a burden on Kippei. While it’s not a perfect show, I really enjoyed every minute of it.

The only two real issues I had with the show were that the very serious conflicts they’d bring up were usually resolved too quickly, and there wasn’t really much of an ending, though I didn’t think the ending was as unsatisfactory as many seemed to think. I knew the manga had properly ended the show and I pretty much knew what the ending was, but it would be well over a decade before I finally sat down and read it to see if it was also void of the other problems I had with the anime.

Well, was it?

….No, not really.

Let me back up.

First of all, to my recollection, the anime did a very good job adapting most of the stories from the manga. About 90% of the story material here I remember being in the anime, loosely or exactly, so in that regard, good job, anime.

Second of all, sadly, yes, the series still has that problem of bringing up a lot of serious issues and resolving them super quickly and sometimes overly easily. I mentioned the storyline with the stalker in my initial review of the series, and that story was resolved exactly the same way in the manga.

She should have at least been slapped for this. Get a life, you goblin.

For a differentiation on this issue, we also have a story of a little boy named Shouta. He became fast friends with Yuzuyu, but it’s revealed that his mother is terribly abusive. How is this resolved in the manga?

Kippei has a conversation with his mother, pointing out that her behavior is going to drive Shouta away someday. She takes a good hard look at herself, stops being an abusive shitstain and convinces her husband to move them away to the country where it’s quiet and less stressful, which is totally easy to do considering the fact that he doesn’t have a job is one of the key points of her stress.

I’m not saying that things couldn’t happen like this in real life, but the odds are insanely low.

You need to understand something – this bitch is a monster. She wouldn’t just hit Shouta. She’d make him feel like garbage. She’d make this five year old boy feel like he was an embarrassment to her, like everything was his fault and everything he was doing was wrong. And she’d sometimes do it with a smirk. She wasn’t just terrible to Shouta, either. She was also an asshole to Kippei AND YUZUYU! But yeah, sure, one conversation with Kippei would certainly turn her around entirely and make everything better.

Believe it or not, the anime did this much better. We get more backstory on why his mother started acting this way, not that it’s much to sympathize with. She had difficulty coping with the challenges of being a parent, and, seemingly, Shouta was a bit behind other kids his age, which made her believe Shouta was an embarrassment. She quickly started taking her frustrations out on Shouta for pretty much everything and began smacking him around.

Kippei does talk to Shouta’s mom, but it doesn’t really sink in fully. Shouta accidentally runs into her when she has groceries in her arms, causing her to drop them everywhere. She slaps him so hard he fell down the stairs, knocking him out, and he had to be sent to the hospital. The doctor treating him finds all of the old bruises on his body and suggests she and her husband seek family counseling. He tells them that, if they ask for it, people will help them.

As a result, his mother realized what a monster she’s been to him, and even her husband realizes that he’s been failing as a parent. After Shouta recovers, they move to the country to be with Shouta’s grandparents so they can help take care of Shouta and her husband can have a better chance at finding steady work. The country lifestyle will also be more relaxing and hopefully relieve some of the stress his mother has. She proclaims that she’s no longer afraid to ask for help if she needs it. All she wants is to start over.

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Nearly getting your kid killed, someone suggesting therapy to you and having such a deep moment of self-reflection that leads you down a better path is more preferred than just another instance of Kippei’s Talk no Jutsu. I’m just sad Shouta had to suffer more in the anime than in the manga.

Another plotline involved Yuzuyu’s cousin, Miki, attempting to kidnap Yuzuyu. In the anime, she would carry around a bike chain as a weapon, but in the manga she wielded a KNIFE and would even threaten Yuzuyu with it. I don’t care if she never intended to actually hurt Yuzuyu, you don’t hold up a knife to a little kid.

Miki was a horribly depressed girl, to the point of self-harm and suicidal ideation. She wanted to kill herself, but she didn’t want to leave her parents without a child, so she decided she would kidnap Yuzuyu and give her to them. No, it really doesn’t make any sense, but mental illness isn’t exactly known for creating logical thought. At home, Miki’s life was a nightmare.

She wanted to oust an incident of a teacher viciously beating a student, which made all of her teachers target her. All of her classmates harassed her, even the person she was trying to defend, who just told her she should’ve stayed out of it. Her parents were no help, either. Her father even hit her when he found out about her poor performance in school.

She’s about to commit suicide via cutting her throat and jumping off a bridge, but Kippei talks her down and convinces her to go back to her family by telling her she’s still important to several people and plenty of people still want to talk to her, which is all she needed to hear.

This one I’m more lenient about. These kinds of situations diffuse under a multitude of circumstances, so I’m definitely not going to say that’s an unrealistic way of going about things. Plus, her troubles really didn’t just end there. She still had to talk with her parents. Her father, by the way, upon hearing that his daughter just tried to kill herself, nearly smacked her again while yelling “You’re still causing trouble!?” Father of the fucking year.

Her mother was much more receptive, however, and is able to get her dad to stop being a dumbass and listen to her. In the end we just know Miki is on a healthier path, not that her life is fixed or anything. She reappears later and is, indeed, getting better, which is great.

Sadly, one of those rushed resolved plotlines was the main one. Like I mentioned, there wasn’t really a solid ending to the anime. Yuzuyu was concerned she would someday forget her mother since she outgrew the pajamas she had made for her, but after talking with Kokoro about their mothers and loneliness, she felt better. The pajama plotline, by the way, is part of the manga too, but it’s quite a bit earlier. Reiko (Kippei’s older sister) finds Yuzuyu’s mother, who is apparently so far away that she needed to take a plane to get there.

Yuzuyu’s mother, Miyako, had initially abandoned Yuzuyu because her husband had recently died and she couldn’t handle the stress of being a single parent. After his funeral, she couldn’t stop herself from crying. It reached a boiling point when she struck Yuzuyu for no reason. Thus she left her kid behind in her house and vowed to return when she felt she was mentally strong enough to handle taking care of Yuzuyu properly. She doesn’t call, she doesn’t send letters, except once, and the one time she came to check up on Yuzuyu she wore a disguise and skulked around Yuzuyu’s school.

When we catch up to Miyako in the finale, we learn that she’s been counting the days that she’s been trying really hard to not cry and she got a job to save money for Yuzuyu’s care when she returned for her. When she feels she can make it through without crying, she’ll come for Yuzuyu.

Most people, justifiably, dislike Yuzuyu’s mom. I totally understand if she was struggling mentally and emotionally with her husband’s death and being a single parent, and I get that striking your kid has to be difficult to process when you’re actually remorseful about it, but she went about this in the worst way possible. She really comes off as just being selfish and stupid as a result.

Her family seems like they’re really nice and accommodating people. If family is in dire straits, they welcome them to live in their home without barely batting an eye. In the manga, even when Kippei proclaims that he wants his girlfriend, Kokoro, to live with them because she’s lonely living all alone, they’re just like ‘Eh sure! Welcome!’

Why didn’t she just come to them and ask if she and Yuzuyu could live with them? Why didn’t she ask if they could take care of Yuzuyu during the day, sleepover some time, etc. while she got her shit together and maybe sought some therapy? Abandoning her child and never really making an effort to communicate with her was one of the worst options she could’ve taken.

But we’re not even done with her yet.

In the manga, Reiko still tracks down Yuzuyu’s mother, being tired of hearing or seeing nothing from her for months on end. When she finds her, she appears to be living with a man. Reiko was enraged by this because she perceived this as Miyako ditching her kid and going to live a new life with some man with no intentions of ever coming back for her daughter.

This especially hurt Reiko because it’s revealed after this that Reiko cannot bear children, thus she has no intentions of marrying or leaving the house (Yeah, that doesn’t make much sense either.) She sees Miyako have a child, what Reiko views as a precious gift, and to seemingly just throw her away is already a massive sin in her eyes, but to do that and then move in with some guy is practically unforgivable to her.

She and Kippei have a private discussion later, and Reiko basically tells him to have Yuzuyu forget about her mother. She’s not coming back, and continuing to give Yuzuyu false hope will only hurt her in the long run. Yuzuyu was listening to this, and she was so shocked that she actually did forget her mother.

All of this ongoing trauma and Reiko’s final words about her mother basically caused Yuzuyu to have a mental breakdown to the point where she was having massive fits when her mother was brought up and she was even passing out due to the emotional strain.

Even though Kippei was having a lot of difficulty finding the heart to let go of Yuzuyu, they do decide to start sending Miyako letters and pictures Yuzuyu drew to her mother, now that they knew where she lived.

Even though Kippei was very uneasy about the idea of Miyako writing back or coming back, they still checked every day for a return letter from her, to no avail.

One night, as Reiko gets the mail, she finds a letter from Miyako simply saying “I’ll be coming to pick up Yuzuyu on her birthday.” And, surprise, her birthday is in just a couple of days. Reiko, however, doesn’t say anything because she doesn’t want to upset the birthday festivities in case Miyako doesn’t come.

Yuzuyu’s birthday comes around, and Miyako does indeed arrive to take Yuzuyu back. Kokoro takes Yuzuyu upstairs before she becomes aware of her mother’s arrival.

Miyako’s got some ‘splainin’ to do. So, what does she have to say for herself? While she’s been gone, she’s gotten a new job and has been saving up little by little for when she’d get Yuzuyu back. She realizes that she was selfish and naive, but she needed some time to be alone and figure herself out. She asserts that didn’t throw Yuzuyu away – she got away from her to protect her…..which is still bullshit.

Like I pointed out before, there were so many other options she could have taken that would have been a lot more helpful and beneficial to both her and Yuzuyu. Even if she felt she was a danger to Yuzuyu, she could have explained the situation to her sister and worked some arrangement out with her. She still could have had time to herself while also keeping in touch and ensuring her daughter that she would indeed come back for her. You don’t ditch her without barely a word, go missing and only send two letters in the several months you stay gone. Have 23 hours and 50 minutes to be alone, and at least attribute 10 minutes to a friggin’ phone call, you idiot.

“I had no choice, no matter what you think.” Fuck off, yes you did.

But, again, we’re still not done.

Reiko bitterly asks what she means by wanting to be alone since she saw her living with a man. I’ll give Miyako’s response in her own words.

“We’re….not actually living together. I met him at work. And he provides comfort to me in many ways.” In layman’s terms, he’s boinking her.

Misako (Kippei’s mom/Miyako’s sister): “Do you plan to marry him?”

“Yes, I do….I talked to him about Yuzuyu….and it took him quite a while to accept the idea. But it seems like he’s finally accepted it. So…”

Are you kidding me? This nameless dude you’re obviously boinking boinked the bad parent out of you, and then he didn’t like the idea of taking Yuzuyu in, even though she’s the daughter of the woman he supposedly loves, and now he’s ‘finally accepted it.’ like it’s an inevitability that he has to bear in order to keep his sex ticket.

My thoughts exactly, Misako.

No.

No.

No.

You’ve been gone for, what, a year at this point? And THAT’S the best you’ve been able to do? No seeking therapy? No gaining true independence? Just shacking up with some guy who, I guess, has been so kind as to stomach the idea of his fiancee’s daughter living with them.

I wasn’t expecting to actually be angry at the manga’s resolution. At least in the anime it seemed like Miyako was striving to gain the strength to return to Yuzuyu on her own, even if the method was quite questionable. Here, it’s almost like she’s expecting this guy to take care of everything. He’s got the house, he can provide money, he’ll be able to ensure Miyako doesn’t backhand Yuzuyu again, I guess. She did mention getting a job, but that’s about it – and the problem was never that they didn’t have money. It was shown that Miyako would chew Yuzuyu out for stupid shit even when her father was still alive, so this won’t fix anything.

This is so much less Miyako bettering herself and trying to become a good mom to Yuzuyu and more her improving a little and finding Yuzuyu a new daddy.

I’m not alone in feeling this way because both Reiko and Misako don’t accept her words. They blatantly tell her that her explanations aren’t good enough and they can’t just hand Yuzuyu over because of that. They tell her to go home, but also tell her that if she’s serious about getting Yuzuyu back that she has to visit every single day to prove her determination. Then, eventually, she’ll earn the right to get Yuzuyu back.

Meanwhile, Kokoro and Yuzuyu wait in her bedroom. Kokoro asks what Yuzuyu thinks of her mom, and she replies that she thinks her mom loves her. She sent her a bunch of letters, so of course she loves her (I don’t really get that either, but maybe it’s just kindergartner logic.)

After Misako sets her terms, Kokoro brings Yuzuyu downstairs, much to everyone’s surprise. Yuzuyu finally reunites with her mom, and Miyako even shows her all of the letters Yuzuyu sent her, telling her what a talented artist she’s become. However, Misako soon silently interjects, and Miyako knows she must go. She tearfully leaves, promising to come back again, much to Yuzuyu’s dismay.

Yuzuyu runs after her, and Kippei goes off to get something. Yuzuyu calls again and again for her mother, but Kippei stops Yuzuyu….to give her her shoes. He tells her to go because she’s wanted to be with her mother all this time and it’s what she’s truly wants. He tells her he loves her, in a scene which nearly made me cry, and Yuzuyu runs back to her mom.

That cracking noise is my heart breaking.

Kippei doesn’t stick around for more than a few seconds, however. He runs back into the house and sadly crumbles in front of the door, looking at the birthday cake he made her and her teddy bear lying on the floor. He’ll always cherish their time together no matter what.

Cut ahead to….I’m gonna guess maybe ten years in the future. Kokoro is rushing Kippei out the door to get him to work. She tells him he got a letter from Yuzuyu, which we see on the table in front of her teddy bear.

As we see a now teenage Yuzuyu back home, she explains in the letter that she’s still doing art, and is apparently so good at it now that she’s won an award for it. She tells Kippei that she was never lonely when her mom left because she always had her Kippei Onii-chan with her to make her lunches, take her to school and play with her. Those are precious memories to her, and she thanks him for everything he did. She closes out the letter telling Kippei that she’s always really loved him.

And as a special treat, apparently Yuzuyu and Shouta reunited and may or may not be an item now. They’re at least friends, and that’s good enough for me.

39

For all of my bitching about Yuzuyu’s mom, this absolute end did hit me more than I expected it to. As I was re-reading the passage again while writing this, I was actually tearing up, which was annoying because I just managed to get through her and Kippei departing from each other without getting misty eyed.

I really just wish we 1) had more insight as to what was going on in the future with Yuzuyu, Kippei and Kokoro at least (but all of the characters would’ve been very much welcome) and 2) that it had been less abrupt of a shift.

Still, it was a very fitting end to the series, and it reminded me all over again why I really love these two.

While we’re still on the subject of storylines that didn’t make it to the anime, however, there was quite the doozy that was omitted….Two doozies, technically. Maybe three.

Doozy 1: Buckle up, buttercup, because this doozy is….a…doozy. We’re introduced to Itagaki, or as I affectionately call him ‘Creepy Asshole.’ Technically, Itagaki was in the anime for a fleeting moment. He was an artist there, and he asked Kokoro out on a date. She refused because she was dating Kippei and…that was pretty much it.

In the manga, there’s an entire arc about this guy.

Here, he’s a baseball player, but that’s not important. He admits to Kokoro that he likes her, but she rejects him because she’s dating Kippei. Itagaki won’t stand down, however. He confesses to her again and reminds her of what a playboy Kippei is (he does have a tendency to flirt, but he’s completely devoted to Kokoro.) Still, she turns him down, but this time he’s not accepting that. He grabs her arm and forces a kiss on her. She manages to struggle away, bruising her leg in the process, and she’s traumatized by the assault. She becomes very nervous and jumpy, even around Kippei, and she becomes distant to all of her friends.

Kokoro decides not to tell Kippei about what happened, and, guess what? Creepy Asshole legitimately thinks that her choosing to not tell her boyfriend about the sexual assault is proof that she likes him more than Kippei.

Bear in mind that literally 30 seconds before he said this, Kokoro was telling Itagaki she didn’t want anything to do with him and never wanted to speak to him again. Whoo yeah, Itagaki. She’s falling for you hard….as in literally….ya know that thing she did when she was trying to fight off your sexual assault.

She, of course, shoots him down again, but the Creepy Asshole persists. This time he goes to Kippei himself. Itagaki tells Kippei that he confessed to Kokoro and that the reason Kokoro has been so distant from him lately is probably because Kokoro feels the same way.

Kippei, not being a creepy asshole, handles this pretty well and realistically. Before Itagaki confronts him, Kippei gives Kokoro her space and doesn’t get angry or frustrated with her. After he learns of the confession, he simply finds Kokoro and asks her about it, plainly wondering if she plans on breaking up with him. Again, he’s not angry or judging her, he’s legitimately concerned about their relationship.

Kokoro breaks down and talks about the assault. Kippei wants to confront Itagaki immediately, but Kokoro stops him. Instead he comforts her and reassures her, staying with her for as long as she needs him.

Uhm, I kinda can’t talk about the resolution to this plotline without moving onto doozy 2.

Doozy 2: Kokoro and Kippei end up making love as a result of this. They’re on a school trip and in a hotel room, and it just kinda naturally happens. It’s not graphic or anything, and even the implications only last a few panels, but it was a really sweet and beautiful moment for the two of them. They never sleep together in the anime.

Doozy 1 cont.: After the deed is thoroughly done, Itagaki deduces that the two of their groins did the fusion dance. And, as if he wasn’t enough of a douchebag, Itagaki acts as if her sleeping with Kippei is a betrayal to HIM and basically implies that she’s a slut for having slept with Kippei behind his back.

Itagaki: “Even though I’m here, you still went and did that as if it was okay, Tokunaga-san. I didn’t think you were that type of person.”

FUCK.

OFF.

Even after Kippei confronts him, with Kippei not even bringing up the sexual assault for the sake of Itagaki and Kokoro (they’re having this fight in the hallway in front of numerous people), Itagaki has the balls to say Kippei should give up on Kokoro and HE brings up that they kissed.

Luckily, Kippei verbally tears him a new one, and Kokoro tells Itagaki she never wants anything to do with him ever again.

Whoo Kippei!

The last we see of him is one of his friends acknowledging that his manner with girls is messed up and asks if he wants him to teach him on how to date. Kokoro briefly mentions later that she hasn’t seen Itagaki ever since that confrontation, and Itagaki was thankfully gone from this manga forever.

Doozy 3: Still building off of that entire plotline, our final doozy is a pregnancy scare. Soon after Kokoro and Kippei have their first time together, she starts developing weird symptoms and believes she’s pregnant.

Now…this doesn’t really go anywhere because she later realizes she wasn’t pregnant. Kippei realizes that he’s been a bit too preoccupied with Yuzuyu, which kinda made him not realize Kokoro was acting weird. Kokoro says she was actually looking forward to being pregnant a little, because she wanted to spend more time with Kippei. And it mostly just culminates in Kippei inviting Kokoro to live in their house so she can be less lonely and spend more time with him and Yuzuyu, which both his family and Kokoro happily accepts.

I was disappointed a little because this would have been the perfect opportunity for them to discuss the possibility of them someday having kids, but it somehow doesn’t really come up. Remember, they’re 17 so it’s not really completely illogical for them to be having discussions about someday having a family.

Something unfortunate I noticed is that Kokoro, in the manga, is actually flatter than she is in the anime. 90% of her character is her relationship to Kippei. 8% is her being lonely and the other 2% is her being stoic and seemingly cold.

Her backstory is that her mom died some time ago and her dad is getting remarried, so he’s basically kicking her out of the house for when his new wife moves in. She doesn’t seem to care, and the apartment her father gets for her is extremely nice (because her family is rich), but it’s the foundation of the running issue with her character being lonely.

It’s perfectly understandable that she is lonely, but it really is the bulk of her character when she’s on screen and not with Kippei. She’s lonely, and she either expresses it to Kippei or not. Over time, it becomes easier for her to express her loneliness and not be afraid of it. After Kokoro moves in with him and his family, she really doesn’t do much but be with Kippei and sometimes play with Yuzuyu.

She’s friends with two other girls, Aki and Mai (the latter of whom is basically just Kokoro lite with more expression in public), who are typically seen sticking up for Kokoro whenever they think Kippei has done something wrong. Aki is particularly vocal about putting Kippei in his place and blaming him for pretty much anything. In a side story, they reveal that she hates men and is terrified of them. When she was 16, a man in a trench coat flashed her, and she’s thought men were nothing but perverts ever since. She even has recurring nightmares about the flasher and panics when a man approaches her from behind.

And this is one of those plots that is resolved abruptly and in a rather unsatisfying manner.

Aki was closest to a boy named Shin, whom she had known since elementary school. She didn’t see Shin as either male or female, so their relationship got on fine. However, when he started expressing interest in girls, Aki started resenting him, believing he was indeed another pervert man.

Despite Aki’s traumas being very valid, she still secretly holds a desire to also be sought after by guys (particularly Shin). She feels like she might not be cute enough or attractive enough.

She’s suddenly spooked accidentally by a male teacher, screams and runs off. Shin finds her, she yells out that she hates men and she hates Shin and then Shin just kisses her and says “Don’t say hate! You love me!” And then she realizes he’s right because he was the one she turned to all the time, even when the flasher incident happened, and the story ends with them seemingly getting together even though I don’t remember Shin showing up in the regular story.

13

You know that joke that a lot of people make about female leads in romance movies and romantic comedies? That they make it seem like all of your problems can be solved by a man? Well, apparently, even lasting trauma brought on by sexual harassment is one of those problems.

Now why did I just go through all of that for the sake of a character who doesn’t really impact the main plot at all? Because I can write all that about a character like Aki but I can barely write a paragraph on Kokoro.

Don’t get me wrong, I still adore her relationship with Kippei, and it’s not like she likes him for shallow reasons. She loves that he never says anything to hurt anybody, he’s so carefree yet caring that she feels more at ease around him, and he’s the one who is able to make her smile the most.

Problem is, it’s kinda hard to describe her without resorting to either calling her Kippei’s girlfriend or just saying she’s lonely. She’s nice, but she also comes off as cold and unfriendly sometimes. She’s also willing to be blunt about some things, especially when it comes to Kippei. She connects with Yuzuyu on a level Kippei can’t quite get because she lost her mother, but she never becomes a mother or even big sister-like figure to her.

The issue with her father, which is the most prominent part of her story that doesn’t have anything to do with Kippei, isn’t even one that’s properly resolved. She never goes back and talks with her dad or explains her feelings. The guy never gets redeemed or anything. He never pops up again after Kokoro moves out, which happens in the first couple of volumes. We don’t know if he knows Kokoro moved in with Kippei and his family, which is something you’d think he’d have words about it if he cared about his daughter.

In the anime, they did explore this aspect a bit further. We saw more of Kokoro as a kid. After her mother’s death, she became more independent and closed herself off. It took a few years for her mother’s death to truly hit her emotionally, but she slowly started becoming more and more lonely. One day, she found that all of the pictures of her mother that were hanging up throughout the house were taken down. Her father explained that she wouldn’t stop crying when she looked at them, so he put them away. Shortly after he did this, he brought home the woman he intended to marry.

ABSCREEN2

The last shot we see of Kokoro’s dad, she’s walking by his house and he’s snipping roses to help keep local kids from getting hurt on the thorns. She and her mother had planted that rose bush together, and, again, it seemed like he was wiping her memory away. Kokoro is terrified that she’ll forget her mother entirely. She’s even forgotten what her voice sounded like.

Kokoro’s dad did offer to have Kokoro come in the house to talk about things, but she refused, and that was the end of that in regards to her dad. It’s weird how one of the aspects of her character development is opening up more to others, but she never expresses her feelings to her father or mends bridges with him.

I still really like Kokoro, and the problems with her character aren’t very severe, but I just think they should have fleshed her out more to help allow her to be a stronger character on her own, considering she’s such an important part of Kippei’s life.

One other storyline that was not included in the anime was Aya and Akari Ooga. Aya is about Yuzuyu’s age and Akari is about Kippei’s age. Their situation is fairly similar to Yuzuyu and Kippei’s in that Akari is usually the one who has to care for Aya since their parents are constantly working. Truth be told, I nearly forgot about this plotline, mostly because they don’t impact the main story much. Akari’s presence makes Kokoro a little jealous, especially when they connect through the kids, and she asks him for help once or twice, but, again, Kippei is entirely devoted to Kokoro and has no interest in Akari that way, Akari also says she has no interest nor does have time for a boyfriend, and Kokoro is never seriously jealous, so it’s kinda pointless.

The biggest point of conflict in that story is Aya overhearing Akari say something like she wishes she could just live a normal life instead of watching Aya all the time, but it’s fixed rather easily by just clearing up the misunderstanding. There was also a point where Aya, Yuzuyu and Marika (Yuzuyu’s friend) got lost in the city because they were trying to find Aya’s parents, but they were all okay.

Their storyline wasn’t bad, and Akari and Aya are nice enough characters, but I didn’t see much of a point in it, especially since their situation is so similar to Yuzuyu and Kippei’s situation that it makes it seem redundant. In fact, there’s a plotline where Yuzuyu tries to walk home by herself in order to not be a burden on Kippei, and Kippei and Yuzuyu get sick after the brief story about Aya getting sick, so it’s pretty much exactly the same.

A couple more characters I want to touch upon are Marika and Satsuki.

Satsuki is Kippei’s younger brother. He’s very blasé about pretty much everything, he’s extremely mature for his age, and that’s really there is to his character. There’s only one episode of the anime that delves into his story even a little, and the same can be said of the manga.

In that story, a girl named Ayumi has a big crush on him, but she becomes convinced that he doesn’t like tall girls with long hair and he doesn’t like models (she’s a model) all because her friends are assholes who told her that for seemingly no reason. However, when she confronts him and confesses, he tells her he doesn’t dislike those things. Then it’s kinda implied that they’re dating afterward, even though she doesn’t appear again.

I just don’t really understand why he’s here. He does have a few cute moments with Yuzuyu and bonds with her a little, but that’s about it. Again, this is another situation where I don’t dislike his character or even his lone storyline, but I just struggle to understand his actual role in the main plot.

Unlike Satsuki or the Ooga sisters, however, there is one character whom I do dislike, and her name is Marika. Yuzuyu has two main friends at school – Marika and Ken. While Ken is a nice enough boy, there’s nothing much to say about him. Marika, on the other hand, is a stuck up bitch.

The end.

Oh fine, let’s be “FAIR” to the five year old. Pft.

All joking aside, Marika really is just a brat. She brags a lot around Yuzuyu, she makes nasty comments, and most of her moments are either making Yuzuyu feel bad or gushing over Kippei, whom she has a crush on.

She can be alright when she’s just hanging out, but usually she’s insufferable.

There’s one point in the anime where she’s pretty okay, though. Their kindergarten class is assigned to write a letter to whomever they deem as their special someone. Yuzuyu writes one to Kippei and Marika writes one to Yuzuyu. We never learn what it says, but the gesture is more than kind enough.

A girl in their class, Namiko, does her letter project with Yuzuyu and tells her that she doesn’t like Marika because she boasts and brags, she interrupts people and she ‘doesn’t look good in ribbons and socks.’

Marika gets angry upon hearing this and calls her a stupid jerk, Namiko cries, though she was clearly putting on an act, and sticks her tongue out at Marika as she leaves the classroom. Yuzuyu asks Namiko if she’s jealous of Marika. She doesn’t get an answer and decides to go outside to do her letter project with Marika, who is crying over what Namiko said. The end of this story is Marika asking Yuzuyu a question. She boasts and brags and loses her temper easily – is that okay with her? Yuzuyu says it is and then she says then that makes them friends.

This storyline is pretty cute and it does redeem Marika to some degree, but this also is not very healthy. Marika’s basically saying “Look, I’m a total jerk, even to you, are you cool with that?” And Yuzuyu’s just like ‘Yup!’ It’s not like Namiko didn’t have reason to say what she said. Marika IS a braggart. She IS a glutton for attention. And she’s a brat. It’s great that Yuzuyu sees the good in Marika, but she’s not really making an effort to be better. It’s like that ‘If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best’ thing.

Yes, I’m still aware we’re talking about five year olds. If this can be a series where a stalker of Kippei’s thinks his five year old cousin is a romantic threat, I can believe a five year old can realize she’s a bit of a harpy and try to be a better person.

Granted, Namiko’s still in the wrong anyway for making fun of her socks and ribbons. And earlier she purposely got her new socks dirty because Marika was showing them off to Yuzuyu. Didn’t say Namiko wasn’t a brat too, she just seemingly has a slight reason to be a brat.

And remember this one bit of genuine niceness is only in the anime. In the manga, she’s not quite as insufferable because she doesn’t have as many scenes, but she never gets a chance to redeem herself or having a really nice moment with Yuzuyu.

————————————–

And….I think that’s all there is to say. While the anime is a bit dated in the art department, I’d definitely give both the anime and the manga a big recommend. The anime omits some parts of the manga, though how much that truly impacts your experience depends greatly on how interesting and important the Itagaki plotline seems to you (since the parts with them sleeping together and the pregnancy scare can be omitted without bothering anything) and which ending seems better to you.

While I was writing this, I found that way more people hated the manga ended than I originally thought, so make of that what you will. The general complaint was that they thought Kippei and Kokoro should have adopted Yuzuyu, and they were angry that we didn’t get much of an update on any other characters after the time skip, the latter of which is very understandable. Plus, people seemed to not realize the woman at the end with Kippei was Kokoro. *shrug*

I think both versions still provide a really great experience, though. It’s a very cute and heartwarming (and heartbreaking) story that never fails to hit the right chords with me. While you can make the argument that it’s a little melodramatic sometimes and some of the plotlines get resolved a bit too easily, I never really felt like anything was that unrealistic. Things in real life can be very dramatic and dark, and sometimes they can be put on a better path with a few simple words.

……But mostly THERAPY. Go get therapy, Miyako. Jesus. I’m glad that the future glimpse of you seems like you’re in a better place, but still therapy. Grief counseling. Family counseling. Anything. The actually abusive monster mother sought therapy – you can too.

P.S. Yuzuyu is still the cutest little kid in anime and manga. I shall love her forever. ♥


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AniManga Clash! Yu-Gi-Oh Season Zero Episode 3 (Chapters 9-10)

YGOEP3

Plot: Duel Monsters is a trading card game that is quickly gaining popularity across Japan. Kaiba, heir to the powerful and massively successful Kaiba Corp., is a champion of the game and is always looking to ‘acquire’ rare cards. He sets his sights on Sugoroku’s extremely rare Blue-Eyes White Dragon card, but his means of acquiring it lead him into the clutches of Yami and a shadow game.

Breakdown: The manga did not include a scene where Kaiba has his goons viciously beat up a student at a school for the sake of getting his Dark Magician card, which he was vehement in not handing over because it was a memento of his father. Kaiba has apparently been doing this or similar things to everyone else at this school that has rare Duel Monster cards and has possibly wiped out other schools in the same manner.

I don’t think there are enough super-special-awesome cards out there rare enough to warrant this. Considering, in the 2000 anime, Yugi has a Dark Magician card by default, there is a duelist who specializes explicitly in Dark Magician cards, Dark Magician has several variations and is one of the easiest to get strong cards ever, I sincerely doubt that card is worth strong-arming from someone, especially when Kaiba’s one of the richest mothereffers in the world.

In the manga, the story starts out with Yugi, Jonouchi and Anzu talking about the upcoming craze, Duel Monsters, at the game shop with Sugoroku. It has been popular in America for a while, but is just gaining traction in Japan. Sugoroku shows the kids his precious Blue-Eyes White Dragon card. It’s extremely rare because they stopped production on the card since it was deemed too powerful to use in the game.

Kaiba suddenly enters the card shop, and he makes no effort to hide his assholery as he looks at the cards Jonouchi just bought and calls them garbage before flippantly chucking them back at him. He also makes it clear that he’s a champion Duel Monsters player and wouldn’t sully his good name to play with an amateur, but gracefully offers to have Jonouchi duel him when he’s collected at least 10,000 cards.

If you know of the 2000 anime, you likely know how the rest goes in the manga. He sees Blue-Eyes, desperately wants it, offers Sugoroku an entire briefcase filled with rare cards for it, but Sugoroku refuses because it was a gift from a treasured friend, so Kaiba begrudgingly leaves. A very similar scene does happen a bit later on, but in Season Zero Kaiba makes a clear effort to get on Yugi’s good side first, believing he might have rare cards.

7

Jonouchi was originally extremely interested in Duel Monsters. In Season Zero, he spends a little time brushing it off as a childish game.

Honda is not in this chapter at all. In the anime, he goes on a tangent about protecting the students from unlawful card maniacs who will obtain Duel Monsters cards through illicit means.

Even though we’ve never seen him before this chapter, Yugi and the others act as if Kaiba has been a classmate for quite a while. In the anime, Kaiba just now transfers to their school for the sake of finding kids with rare cards and stealing them.

If you know Season Zero, you know it takes quite a bit for me to say this – This episode’s animation quality is noticeably worse than usual….and that’s just upsetting.

The anime is setup rather poorly, if you ask me. While the manga doesn’t make it a secret that Kaiba’s a douche, the anime goes to the trouble of establishing that he’s an even bigger douche than his manga counterpart, and then they try to pull off the ol’ ‘Forget what my clearly evil character design implies – I’m a good guy! Hey protagonist, let’s be pals! Wanna come to my really cool house? Invite your friends! I’m a good guy!’ to ‘Psych, I was really a bad guy! Muahahaha!’ switcheroo. In the anime, all you’re doing is waiting for the other boot to fall because we know Kaiba’s a bad guy who steals cards.

They could’ve pulled this off cleanly if they simply didn’t have the opening scene with Kaiba stealing the Dark Magician card, which is a scene that turns out to be entirely pointless outside of showing us prematurely that Kaiba’s a jerk.

Speaking of him pretending to be Kindba (hahah, I make the puns. They are funny) anime!Kaiba invites Yugi over to his house to check out his Duel Monster card collection. Yugi brings everyone else along, and Kaiba basically says ‘the more the merrier.’ Jonouchi hates him because he’s rich but also super nice because he translates that as being snobby. Honda later hates him because Miho starts fawning over him for giving them free tickets to his amusement park.

Kaiba conveys his Duel Monsters Champion status when he reveals his card collection room which also displays several of his trophies from Duel Monsters tournaments.

Kaiba asks Yugi if he has any rare cards, and Anzu remembers that Yugi said his grandpa has a really rare card. Kaiba asks if he could see it and Yugi agrees. Despite the other setup being poor, I like this particular setup because at least now Kaiba has a reason to visit the card shop. In the 2000 anime, Kaiba overhears Yugi talking about his grandpa’s rare card when they’re in class, which he just assumes might be the Blue-Eyes. The manga just has him randomly arrive.

I find it even weirder that Kaiba would do all of this without the belief that Yugi has a rare card. Kaiba is a complete ass. He wouldn’t play Mr. Nice Guy unless he knew he’d be able to get something out of it.

YGOEP3 1

Somewhat minor, but the anime neglects to mention that, supposedly, people have killed each other over Duel Monsters cards before. Yikes.

Miho: “What!? I thought it would have diamonds or jewels attached to it!”……You thought a rare trading card for a children’s card game would have diamonds and jewels on it……Miho, please go be stupid somewhere else.

Also fairly minor, but the anime calls it Blue-Eyes Dragon not Blue-Eyes White Dragon. It’s not an issue with the subs either, I can hear it.

They point out that this next bit doesn’t make sense, but still—Honda claims it’s too dangerous to hold such a rare card and that Sugoroku should hand it over to the beautification club. Sugoroku asks why a beautification club member would care and Honda doesn’t have any response to that.

The beautification club stuff was silly enough at school, mostly because Honda keeps equating being a beautification club member to being a school prefect or something, but even if the beautification club had any say in these matters, why would he ask to confiscate a card that someone off school grounds is holding?….That an elderly man off school grounds is holding?……That an elderly man who owns a game shop off school grounds is holding?

I don’t think it’s a matter of him wanting to take the card for himself because Honda’s such a goodie-two shoes (well…kinda. He beats people up in the name of justice with Jonouchi sometimes) and I don’t think he even plays the game in the first place (His first match seems like it’s in the next scene). This whole sequence is just strange.

While the scene at the game shop plays out basically the same outside of those Honda and Miho moments, Kaiba continues to play the nice guy when he gets shot down. In the manga, he basically has a big huff and leaves.

The next scene in the manga has Yugi playing a friendly game of Duel Monsters with Jonouchi. In the anime, Jonouchi’s playing with Honda. The duel is changed up slightly, though. Honda plays the card manga!Jonouchi originally played, Zombie, and places it in the graveyard zone. The manga doesn’t have any sort of field advantage mat like the anime does, so the card just gets played regularly. Anime!Jonouchi plays the Dark Dragon card – the same one manga!Yugi played. It’s 1500 vs. 800, so Jonouchi proclaims himself as the winner, as manga!Yugi did, but anime!Yugi stops him. Since Honda played Zombie in the graveyard field, its attack points double, making it 1600, so Honda wins.

I find this increasing entertaining the more I think about it, because it’s almost like Yugi is retroactively cheating between versions for the sake of not letting Jonouchi win.

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Also, DOUBLE ATTACK POWER for undead creatures in the graveyard? Are you insane? I know Zombie only had 800 attack points, but even slightly stronger creatures would be ridiculously overpowered in there.

Honda and Jonouchi both get into Duel Monsters for the sake of beating Kaiba. I find this disappointing because manga!Jonouchi was genuinely excited about the game itself and even challenged Kaiba before he started thinking he was a jackass. Having his one drive be defeating Kaiba, and pawning off that same drive on Honda, just feels lazy and uninteresting. Granted, they never play the game again after this, in this continuity anyway.

In the manga, Yugi randomly brings Blue-Eyes to school for the day after asking his grandpa if he could borrow it….for…some reason. In the anime, Kaiba specifically calls Yugi the previous night and asks if he can borrow the card from his grandpa so he can see it up close again.

I have problems with both versions. In the manga, why would he take such a rare card with him to school? His friends have already seen the card, and carrying around such a rarity just makes him a target for ‘maniacs.’

In the anime, why wouldn’t Yugi find it odd that Kaiba would ask him to do such a thing? His grandpa’s a reasonable guy. Surely he’d let Kaiba keep seeing it. Maybe not hold it again, but he’d be able to see it. Yugi’s a bit naive to believe Kaiba would ask something like that without having ulterior motives.

By the way, why is Kaiba allowed to wear such a drastically different school uniform? Every other boy has a blue uniform, but Kaiba is allowed to wear a pure white one in the anime. Is it just because he’s rich? (Just for the sake of noting this, he only wears his school uniform in a few episodes of the 2000 version, but his uniform is the proper color there.)

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Literally just realized how gross the color scheme in his hallway is. Is there any place in this anime that has pleasant colors?

The manga only goes so far as to show Kaiba pulling the fake Blue-Eyes out of his pocket to make the switch while the anime decides to show him dropping the card to make the switch too. I like this change because it bugged me a little that we don’t see how Kaiba swapped the cards right in front of Yugi’s face.

In the manga, Yugi is the only one who notices that Kaiba swapped the cards. In the anime, Jonouchi and Honda notice and take action against Kaiba after school without telling Yugi, which promptly gets their asses kicked by Kaiba’s guards.

I can’t really decide how much this bothers me. Anime!Yugi does later reveal that he noticed Kaiba take his card, but he thought he’d reconsider and give him the chance to return it. He was heading home with the fake and I guess hoped Kaiba would come to the shop later and own up or something. Manga!Yugi, on the other hand, confronted Kaiba after school about it, begged him to give him the card back since it’s so precious to his grandfather and got beat up by Kaiba who refused to cater to his wishes.

I prefer the manga side in that regard because, while it is realistic that Yugi would give Kaiba the chance to own up to what he did and make things right, I don’t think Yugi would return home with the fake Blue-Eyes card and possibly have to break the bad news to his grandpa, who may notice it’s a fake.

Also, I’m a tad annoyed because so many episodes/chapters include the main characters getting beaten up. It starts to wear thin.

After school, Yugi walks home and is confronted by Anzu who tells him she thought he’d be with Honda and Jonouchi because they decided to challenge Kaiba. Yugi somehow puts it together that Honda and Jonouchi are back at school, on the roof no less, physically confronting Kaiba.

The rest of the exchange goes the same, essentially, but since the guards are in the picture in the anime, Yami has to beat them up before going to confront Kaiba.

Shadow Game

The manga and Season Zero share the 2000 anime’s original default life point count of 2000, which will later get bumped up to 4000, though rarely, if ever, do they mirror the real life TCG’s default life point count of 8000.

Make fun of the game in later days all you want, it is a million times more complex and entertaining than the game in the manga and Season Zero. I would’ve been really bored playing the game like this. Most of the moves are drawing and playing whatever you’ve just drawn then attacking with whatever monster you summoned. Also, there’s only magic cards, no traps, though you can put magic cards face down and have them act like traps, I think?

Oh my god, the animation for the Dark Dragon falling! That is too hilarious. It was literally like someone knocked down a cardboard cutout. Is this a rough draft version of the episode? Wow.

It’s interesting seeing the beta versions of some of the more well-known Yu-Gi-Oh cards like Holy Elf/Mystical Elf and Minotaurus/Battle Ox.

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Apparently Season Zero wants to channel Bakugan in the future for a minute here as they play a magic card, but only say it makes the monster stronger. They don’t explain how much stronger or for how long. In the manga, they explain that Growth increases Minotaurus’ attack by 20%.

In the manga, once Minotaurus is powered up, Yugi suffers several losses in a slight montage where his life points are eventually whittled down to 500. His next card has to be strong or else there’s a high chance he’ll lose, which is where Demon Summon/Summoned Skull comes into play a la heart of the cards.

What’s that? You say you thought the heart of the cards was some 2000 version bullshit? Haha, you’re silly, reader.

In the anime, Yugi only suffers the loss of Holy Elf. His life points stay the same, since she was in defense mode, and he instantly draws Demon Summon.

I don’t really mind this too much because the manga makes Yugi out to be a complete idiot who keeps throwing out weak monsters in attack mode instead of defense.

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Also, have another aged chuckle, because Kaiba notes that Demon Summon is one of the five strongest monsters in the game. Wow.

Here’s where Kaiba really differs from manga and Season Zero to the 2000 anime. In the manga and Season Zero, Kaiba cheats by pulling a Blue-Eyes out of his jacket pocket, palming it and pretending to draw it on his next turn.

2000!Kaiba, as much of a jackass as he is, would never sully his good name or his honor as a duelist and cheat (The ‘summoning a bunch of monsters on one turn’ thing doesn’t really count because that was technically in the Duelist Kingdom days where half the moves were technically cheating or making shit up.) The closest he ever got was threatening to commit suicide if Yugi chose to defeat him, but that was only because Mokuba’s life/soul was on the line. If he lost that match, he’d have lost his only chance to challenge Pegasus and save his last remaining family and one of the only beings he loved.

Either Kaiba loses another monster off-panel in the manga or they did some bad math. Kaiba went down to 1500 LP when his Gargoyle was defeated. His 2040 Attack Minotaurus was his next monster to be downed, and it was by a 2500 Attack monster, which means he should be at 1040 LP. However, the next time we see his LP counter, it’s at 800.

I want to believe the anime did this wrong as well because Kaiba’s LP only go to 1200 when Minotaurus is defeated there. However, since the anime didn’t tell us Minotaurus’ exact power boost with Growth, I can only assume it’s wrong. It’s not either 800 or 1040, so unless they changed the card effect, it has to be wrong.

A small bit of text above Kaiba’s head in the manga implies that he also cheated to win those aforementioned tournaments, so this isn’t a new thing for him.

Oh, oh….oh retro Blue-Eyes and its animation…..Wow….just..wow.

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What the…? Blue-Eyes isn’t even attacking and is, in fact, in the process of destroying itself, but anime!Yami’s life points are going down to 50? Whaaa?????

I would call BS on Blue-Eyes not attacking because he’s not Kaiba’s card, thus he doesn’t have his heart in it, his grandfather does, but I think this is just the embodiment of Kaiba’s cheating so I’ll give it a pass.

I get that it’s poetic justice for Yami to revive Blue-Eyes to fight for him, but he could’ve just attacked Kaiba’s life points directly with Demon Summon. Or are direct attacks not allowed in this version, like it wasn’t in the first season of YGO? Also, when anime!Yami revived Blue-Eyes, why did he not attack with either?

Now when it’s anime!Kaiba’s turn, like Yami, his life points start going down for absolutely no reason. What the hell is happening?

Even more weirdness because, in the manga, Kaiba loses this duel, and the subsequent penalty game has a lasting effect on him that will herald in the biggest arc of the manga. Yami attacks with Blue-Eyes and wins.

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In the anime….I have no clue what the hell happened. Kaiba draws a Gremlin, which, even with 2000 attack, isn’t enough to defeat either Demon Summon or Blue-Eyes. However…Kaiba summons him on a mountain range, I think, which, I guess, grants the card the ability called Split the Land….which automatically ends the duel in a draw…I suppose?

…..HUH!? Why did Kaiba not get defeated here? He not only should’ve lost, he should’ve got a well-deserved penalty game for cheating. But the anime decides, nah, let’s have it end in a draw? Even 2000 anime Kaiba lost. And where did Kaiba vanish to after the duel ended? What is going on!?!?

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It also makes th setup for the Kaiba arc so much weaker than the manga. Instead of Kaiba, the champion, being pissed about being defeated and basically being forced to go through hell, instead he’s just butthurt that he got a tie.

I’m a bit surprised that manga!Yami was lenient on Kaiba in his penalty game. It’s horrible to be trapped in a card and experiencing something ‘close to death’ as all of the fallen creatures torment him, but he clearly says it’s only for one night whereas we’re left to assume most of the other people who got penalty games were punished indefinitely.

If they weren’t, then why haven’t people like Ushio come back to get their revenge on Yugi? Are they just too scared of him now? Have they changed their ways because of their punishment? Tetsu got straight-up killed for sure, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think most of the other penalty games stuck unless stated otherwise so…..??

Kaiba beat up numerous people, stole god knows how many Duel Monsters cards and tried to steal Yugi’s grandfather’s precious treasure. I’m not saying all of that is worth eternal torment or death, I’m saying Yami’s done worse to some people for much less. Why is Yami so inconsistent with how he punishes people?

Also, the anime ends with a few tags – Kaiba trashing his trophy room in anger at getting a mere draw in a duel, Yugi, Anzu and Jonouchi being glad Yugi got Blue-Eyes back (somehow) and an overly long really stupid sequence of Miho riding on the back of Honda’s bike and them spending a ridiculous amount of time on the ground in a daze after crashing.

———————-

I thought this was a good introduction to Duel Monsters, for the most part. I don’t think they do an adequate enough job explaining the rules (The manga does a lot more than the anime, but they have an advantage in being able to display fairly detailed text boxes that convey that type of info. Still, a good anime would be able to convey the information naturally), and both versions have a serious problem with keeping track of life points, but the anime moreso because both of their life points went down so far for literally no reason. Nothing was happening at the time, but they were losing points. I feel like they only did that so it would be more viable for the duel to end in a draw.

I already expressed how I also didn’t care much for the nice guy act they put on Kaiba in the anime. Like I said, that would’ve been perfectly fine if they didn’t ruin the act in the first place by showing Kaiba’s guards beating up a kid for a Duel Monsters card and establishing that he does that stuff all the time.

Kaiba’s design has been noted throughout the years as being the funniest manga/Season Zero design of all of our well-known characters because, while the Kaiba we know and love has brown hair, manga/Season Zero Kaiba…well.

Again, what is up with the screwed up colors in this show?

Do I even need to bring up the janky animation in this episode? This series has always been poorly animated, but this is lower than shoestring budget. It’s like…..off-brand floss budget. It reminded me of those old Filmmation cartoons from the 70s on occasion.

Kaiba is a good antagonist, of course, and I’m glad they left the door open for him to return in the future, but that draw wasn’t earned in the anime. He may not have been able to do anything with Blue-Eyes once he was on the field, but he still cheated. He deserved to lose. There’s honestly no reason he shouldn’t have lost either. It’s like the writers were cheating FOR them. What was wrong with the manga’s ending that they felt the need to change it? Just wanted it to seem more like Kaiba and Yugi/Yami were on the same level? That’s just silly.

Winner: Manga

Next time, some filler on the anime’s part and some not really filler but never adapted chapters in the manga.


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Hell Girl: Two Mirrors/Jigoku Shoujo Futakomori Review Archive

Episode 1: The Girl in the Dark

Episode 2: Bubbles

Episode 3: Beloved Kei

Episode 4: Secret

Episode 5: Barreling Towards Hell

Episode 6: Where the Sun Shines

Episode 7: Bonds

Episode 8: The Fake Hell Link

Episode 9: Elder Brother, Younger Sister

Episode 10: Anna Sone’s Intimate Holiday

Episode 11: The Distant Room Next Door

Episode 12: Black Rut

Episode 13: Tragedy of the V

Episode 14: The Peaceful Lakeshore

Episode 15: For the Sake of this Country

Episode 16: Aspiring Femme Fatale

Episode 17: Silent Gaze

Episode 18: That Person’s History

Episode 19: Hell Amongst the Steam, Lodging for Travelers

Episode 20: A Maiden’s Album

Episode 21: Paper Balloons Wafting

Episode 22: Longing

Episode 23: Distrust

Episode 24: Chain Reaction

Episode 25: Wandering

Episode 26: Indigo Dye

Hell Girl: Two Mirrors Episode 22 – Longing Review

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Plot: A familiar face, Takuma, shows back up on Ai’s radar. He meets a wandering girl named Seri who quickly forms a bond with him – something he desperately needs now that his mother’s dead, his father’s comatose and the entire town has ostracized him, believing he’s responsible for both events. Seri has a dream of going someplace far away, and she may need to resort to less than ethical means of getting what she needs to achieve her goal.

Breakdown: Previously on “This Kid Can’t Catch a Fucking Break,” Takuma was a normal boy who had recently moved back to Japan with his famous producer father and loving mother. However, almost as soon as they had arrived back in town, they started being targeted for harassment. Piles of garbage would wind up on their yard time and again, and fliers claiming Takuma was a ‘devil child’ who killed animals were being strewn about town.

These incidents escalated until it reached the point where the mysterious harasser shot Takuma’s mother in the neck with an arrow – killing her almost instantly. Takuma was blamed for the murder. Only his father believed he was innocent. And soon, not even that would matter.

The real culprit behind the incident was an old friend of Takuma’s father – a jealous writer who felt his failure was on Takuma’s father’s shoulders. Once Takuma’s father realized who was really responsible, the man viciously attacked him with a broken bottle, leaving him on the cusp of death. Takuma arrived on scene during the attack. Just as he was about to get assaulted as well, the man vanished – he was a target of one of Hell Girl’s clients.

As fate would have it, the police arrived on scene shortly thereafter. Seeing Takuma in front of his badly wounded father and no one else in the room, they instantly suspected him. The town’s ire towards ‘the devil’s child’ got exponentially worse. Takuma’s father was lost in a coma, and Takuma was forced to bear the brunt of the whispers, glares and general hatred and fear of him all alone. No one would ever believe the real assailant vanished in thin air…

And now….

Takuma episodes are just so depressing. There’s just no real turning back for this poor kid. Even if his father wakes up and tells everyone point blank that his son had nothing to do with his assault, no one will believe him. They’ll just believe it’s a father trying to protect his son from being ostracized. Even if they get new identities and travel someplace far away, what’s done is done. This kid has an assorted box of trauma-filled chocolates.

Today, Takuma lives alone because anime just does that, okay? No parents? Live alone. Don’t care how old you are. He was let off of murder and assault charges because there wasn’t enough evidence, which is understandable. He’s trying his best to ignore practically everyone whispering about him as he goes about life, but he’s obviously badly effected by it.

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A breezy girl named Seri, who seemingly has no idea of his past, befriends him. She explains that she used to live in the area, but her house was torn down for a train station that never got built due to lack of funds. She used to love going to a nearby creek, which was also destroyed, to see the frogs at night. The frogs were a nice distraction from listening to her parents argue. She grew to love frogs so much that she even has a frog charm on her cell phone and it’s very obvious that her favorite color is bright green.

Takuma and Seri bond very quickly – he even invites her to stay at his house while she’s in town, which she accepts. Apparently, Takuma’s yard is still covered in garbage – it’s unclear whether this is old garbage from the previous Takuma episode or new garbage from townsfolk who despise him.

It eventually comes to light that Seri is involved in some rather shady business. She wants to run away from the town forever and just live freely in some place where there will be a lot of frogs. She even invites Takuma along, though he declines because he has to stay with his father.

In order to leave, however, she needs a lot of money. Thus she started blackmailing a man named Hasue. He was one of the people involved with the destruction of her home, so he was a perfect target. She lead him into having a date with her and then threatened to tell his company that he was having an explicit relationship with a minor, even though they hadn’t done anything together.

He agreed to pay her off, but he started to back out. Seri decided to visit him at his house to talk about it….with his wife present. He vehemently denied the relationship, but the wife didn’t believe him. This was just a taste of the backlash he’d get if she told everyone about them.

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As a result, he once again agreed to pay her. He’d have the money for her the following day. Takuma tries to stop her, asking her to live there with him instead of running away, but she just hugs him, gives him the little frog charm as a gift and heads off.

Now, you may be wondering where Hell Girl and friends come in.

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeellllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll……..

They pop up here and there throughout the episode, but we’re not really sure why until the end. Kikuri definitely makes her annoying ass presence known, however. She barges in on Takuma and Seri eating dinner and acts like a big pest. Hone Onna and Ai have to come in and wrangle her away. Also, she’s naked when they take her back and I have no idea why….She was wearing clothes when she entered the house….

When Seri goes to get the money from the mailbox, the designated drop-off location, we see who the client is. Hasue!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

….’s wife!

Dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!

Legitimately, this actually surprised me. I thought for sure it would be Hasue. But nope. It was the wife the whole time. She put fake money in the mailbox and pulled the string as Seri rode away on her scooter, relishing in the sound of the bike crashing.

I’m not really clear on why she did it – was it for supposedly sleeping with her husband or blackmailing him about it? Maybe a little of both?

I’m not really sure what the purpose of the fake money even was. Did she want to see if Seri would actually extort them before damning her to hell or was it for the lolz?

Kikuri returns shortly after Seri leaves Takuma’s house, because she’s a purple-eyed bitch, and explains that Hell Girl is here for Seri not Takuma, something she wouldn’t divulge earlier.

Struck with this realization, he rushes off to try and save Seri only to find her crashed scooter in the middle of the road and Seri nowhere to be found.

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In conclusion, Takuma made a friend for a day only to have her both leave him voluntarily and then get sent to hell immediately after. Not only that, but he’s standing in what could be considered another crime scene. They don’t show any police there, but he technically is.

This isn’t a bad episode by any stretch of the imagination. It was nice to get an update on Takuma, even if his life is horrible right now, and I liked seeing him have a confidant. The Hell Girl angle was also well-handled. The client’s identity really threw me for a loop, and the motive behind targeting Seri is understandable, even if the exact details behind why the wife was the client are a little hazy.

However, it is tainted by the fact that this episode is a bit overly depressing. Hell Girl’s not sunshine and butterflies (Well, okay, twilight sunshine and weird glowing butterflies) but I’m already sick to death of Takuma’s life being blown up ten ways to Sunday. The kid already has a shitty enough life. There’s no reason to have whole plotlines dedicated to beating him down some more. He’s a sweet kid and it’s just difficult to watch.

No matter what light MAY be at the end of the tunnel for poor Takuma, it won’t be enough for the viewer. He’s been through too much, and we’re still not done with the poor kid.

Yes, that’s right. The next episode also focuses on Takuma as we come down to the wire in episodes. What fresh hell awaits him? Find out next time!

Rating: 9/10


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Analyzing the Criticized: Sakura Haruno (Naruto) Part 2 – Chapters 101-200: Deeper Problems Starting to Bloom

See Part One Here

Chapters 101-120 (Chunin Exam Finals and the Start of the Attack of Konoha)

Sakura Analysis Part 2 1

Sakura’s not very active during this period because so much of it is the Chunin exam finals, and Sakura’s role is to merely observe (And wait for Sasuke to arrive for ten of these chapters…Just to get this off my chest – I fully agree with Shikamaru. Sasuke and Kakashi’s big overly dramatic arrival is a little irritating when they had everyone waiting. I kinda wanted them to follow that up with “Oh sorry, Sasuke, you got disqualified for making us wait about an hour. Nice pizzazz, though.”)

However, there are some points of note.

Sakura again feels a pang of jealousy when Naruto shows how powerful he is and how much he’s grown when he defeats Neji.

I especially like her saying that watching him makes her want to work even harder. She’s not only showing that she has definitely come to respect Naruto, but he is also actively inspiring her. It’s a nice circle too, considering Naruto got as far as he did in his fight with Neji by remembering the people who have inspired him, like Hinata and Rock Lee, who were inspired by him as well.

….However, as you’ll note, not a damn person was inspired by Sakura’s fight. *cough*

The second annual Naruto character popularity poll is listed in these chapters, and I didn’t think to note the first one back then because I didn’t find it relevant, but considering the topic at hand and the fact that I don’t have much to write about yet, I feel I should point this one out.

In the first popularity poll, Sakura ranked fifth.

In the second popularity poll…….she ranked 14th…..

Ouch is an understatement. Allow me to point out some notable characters who beat her as further evidence of the disdain towards Sakura starting to show up. Gamabunta, the frog who appeared in all of one chapter so far – Jiraiya who, at this point really hasn’t done much but train Naruto for a while and perv on girls – Hayate Gekko, the drowsy-looking proctor of the prelims who didn’t do much else but get murdered – and the fifth Hokage who has barely shown his non-mountain face in this manga at all and has yet to get a speaking role.

She’s not even the highest ranking kunoichi – Hinata takes that spot at #6.

Granted, she never falls this far again, but she never meets or surpasses her first ranking in the future. In fact, she struggles to stay in the top ten. The last popularity poll, taken in 2011, leaves her at 12th place.

Since we’re still not getting much in the realm of Sakura right now, let me babble for a while. The endless Sasuke praise and adoration is irritating enough, especially considering he is literally being given preferential treatment because he’s the special Uchiha kid everyone wants to see fight so no disqualification for him being late, but then he has to come in being a literal copy of Rock Lee.

I get it, Sharingan user means he can copy whatever he’s seen, but this specific instance really bugs me. Rock Lee worked his ass off day in and day out for a few years to get to the levels of speed and taijutsu skill at which he has peaked to this point. Sasuke trains all of a month and he’s matched Lee’s physical abilities – his top speed, his hand-to-hand combat, his jutsus – all of it.

Sure, he can’t open the chakra gates (or maybe he can, he did see that happen too) and these abilities still take their toll, but it breaks my heart to see Rock Lee hobbling around on crutches after a near-death experience against Gaara using everything he had as he watches Sasuke implement his own moves against Gaara and drive him into a state of desperation he couldn’t get him into even by sacrificing his body to achieve that goal. And Sasuke’s barely even tired or injured at this point.

Do you see what I mean when I say I hate ‘geniuses’ and ‘prodigies’?

I’m not saying the Sharingan is cheating – as ninja, which are basically soldiers, they’re perfectly allowed to use whatever powers and bloodline abilities they have to come out on top, even if they’re overpowered or cheap. I take this more as being a massive shortcut. It’s things like this that make feats of certain characters seem less impressive to me.

People can look at this and go ‘Wow, Sasuke’s such an impressive badass.’ but I feel underwhelmed.

Rock Lee is so impressive because he reached this insane level of skill and power at his age with a handicap, not with any born advantages like many ninja have. His main powers are determination and self-discipline. On sheer willpower, he managed to match top dog ninjas time and again, even if the series commonly doesn’t let him have the limelight. Neji’s natural genius, bloodline powers and talent were a perfect foil for him. Neji may be cool, but he’ll never be as cool as Rock Lee to me, nor will Sasuke.

And hey, just to loop around back to Sakura, that IS a point on her side of the scoreboard. Even Ino and Hinata have bloodline traits that give them an edge, but Sakura doesn’t. We don’t know much about her home life besides barely seeing her parents once and that was anime-exclusive. She doesn’t come from some special clan, she has no kekki genkai, she has no curse mark or demons inside of her – she’s just Sakura.

However, the reason that she’s nowhere near as impressive as Rock Lee is because her work ethic up until this point seems mostly relegated to the basics – book learnin’ and basic skills. Like many have pointed out, she has spent a majority of her time being preoccupied with flirting and impressing Sasuke. She gets really good grades, but she doesn’t go beyond that. She’s one of the top kunouchi in her class, but she doesn’t strive to learn any powerful jutsu or focus on a particular area of strength.

I don’t want to chalk that up to laziness, because she doesn’t seem like she’s lazy. I want to say she’s lost.

She doesn’t have an identity as a ninja yet. Even in regards to the writing, she’s in a very confusing state. She’s super smart, but not as smart as Sasuke, Neji or Shikamaru. She’s skilled with chakra control, but they don’t do anything with that. She’s supposedly good with Genjutsu, but we already know how contradictory that statement has been. She’s one of the top kunoichi in her class, but in battle she ties with Ino, who is supposedly in the middle or back of the pack.

I think one of the reasons she was jealous of Naruto wasn’t just realizing yet again that he’s on a completely different level than her – it was knowing Naruto knew exactly who he was and wanted to be as a ninja. As the character descriptions state time and again in each volume, Sakura’s main goal is to ‘win Sasuke’s heart.’ Meanwhile Naruto’s is to become hokage and Sasuke’s is to get vengeance for his clan. One of these things is not like the others.

Sakura has finally realized how far she truly falls short as a ninja, but she has no direction on what she wants to be as a ninja or, realistically, a person. Winning the heart of an edgelord is not a goal of a ninja nor is it really a viable goal as a person as we’ll delve into soon enough. And it’s not until Tsunade starts training her that she actually has direction, purpose and a goal as a ninja…….even if that goal is heavily centered around Sasuke, but, again, we’ll get to that later.

That’s likely one of the reasons why Sakura is seen as so much better once the time skip rolls around. She’s not only more skilled, serious and powerful with her own fairly unique set of skills (being fair, all of the main characters adopted and adapted most of their techniques from their elders), but she also has direction.

Once the attack is launched on the Chunin exam and most people fall under the Genjutsu, one of the enemies points out that realizing the Genjutsu and being able to use a jutsu to release it is to be expected of Konoha’s elite. Immediately after he says this, we see Sakura releasing the Genjutsu on herself as well.

FINALLY an actual implication that she’s good at catching Genjutsu and can easily escape it. Too bad there’s so much more evidence to the contrary that this actually seems weird. I almost feel like she was just taking a beat from Kakashi and Gai, seeing them do it before her.

While worrying about Sasuke, given the attack from Orochimaru, Sakura gets attacked by two enemy ninja. Kakashi rushes in to save her…..This attack has absolutely no point besides to show Sakura getting saved again.

Kakashi points out that she has a natural talent for Genjutsu again, which is par for the course at this point, roll your eyes and move on, but he also said something that made me raise an eyebrow. He said he’s glad he trained her in Genjutsu during ninja survival training….Uhm….when did this happen?…And why are you lying?

Kakashi never gave Sakura any specific training, and any training she did with Naruto and Sasuke never involved Genjutsu, that we saw anyway. The only instance I can think of was the bell test where Kakashi placed a Genjutsu on her to make her think Sasuke was mortally wounded – and that made her faint!

Sakura is recruited to break the Genjutsu on Naruto and Shikamaru to take on an A-rank mission. She’s very clearly nervous and apprehensive, but, to her credit, she doesn’t panic. Shikamaru recognized and broke free from the Genjutsu (he pretended to be asleep) so she doesn’t get to break him free.

Chapter 118 does not put any good light on Sakura at all.

There’s a fairly decent opportunity for Sakura’s character growth here. One of the aforementioned overlooked aspects of her character is in the fact that she’s supposedly very smart. Since she was shown to be quite nervous a moment ago, Kakashi might have relied on Sakura’s knowledge to help command a squad to carry out his mission. Sakura could bungle it up a bit at first, her fear getting in the way, especially since Kakashi brought up the Hidden Mist mission, of which Sakura holds bad memories, but ultimately she could come through and manage to effectively lead the squad for at least a while.

This would also give her a better moment of glory than whatever the hell happened in the Chunin exam prelims.

However, Kakashi ordered her to recruit Shikamaru, who was recently proven to be a tactical genius with an IQ over 200. And since he was also touted to be the one who would be most fitting as a Chunin out of that year’s group, it’s a no-brainer that he’d basically be leader and brains of their temporary squad.

But he went a bit overboard.

He made Sakura look about as stupid as Naruto with her suggestions, and even described her as ‘A kunoichi with no particular talent.’ I’ve stated that it’s a bit annoying when they press Sakura’s ‘she’s really smart’ button when trying to give her props when she’s in a team with Sasuke the genius, but this moment made me really glad they didn’t opt to put her in a team with Shikamaru – especially considering his outward sexism.

Sakura Analysis Part 2 2

Secondly, Sakura immediately believes Shikamaru probably ran away when he goes off to basically sacrifice himself to be a decoy to the nine pursuing ninja. Not only is that insulting and a poor testament to Sakura’s faith in her comrade, but that doesn’t even make any sense. If Shikamaru wanted to save his ass and run, he’d just do it. He wouldn’t come up with an elaborate plan, pretend to be the décoy in said plan and then run off.

Chapters 121-140 (Conclusion of the attack on Konoha + Battle against Gaara)

Sakura’s not present in half of these chapters because there’s other stuff going on that has nothing to do with her, namely the Third Hokage’s battle against Orochimaru, Shino’s battle against Kankuro and Sasuke’s battle against Gaara.

However, I will note something. When Naruto finally arrives on the scene, he makes a dramatic entrance by kicking Gaara in the face (Does that mean now Naruto’s too fast for Gaara’s protective sand? Come on.) as he’s about to attack Sasuke.

Sakura’s entrance is rushing to Sasuke’s side and fretting over him. Granted, he is out of chakra and the curse mark is taking over again, but still. Contrast.

Also, there’s a weird spot, shown above, where Sakura seems like she’s not even paying attention to what’s going on around her, gets pissed off when Naruto tries to ask her about their enemy, literally goes ‘grrr’ when she looks at Gaara and explains…. “That’s the guy who knocked Sasuke down.” I don’t know if the translation is just weirdly worded, but that sounds like a little kid getting angry at a bully.

And let me remind everyone, Sasuke chased after Gaara so they could have this fight, yet Sakura’s acting like Gaara sought him out.

To her credit, Sakura does jump in the way of Gaara as he tries to attack Sasuke (Though her stance is kinda weird if you ask me. Really limits your attacks if you hold your kunai down that low, doesn’t it?)

But, of course, she can’t do a damn thing and just gets slammed against the tree. Her willing to put her life at risk to protect someone precious to her creates an additional instance of emotional turmoil for Gaara, for what that’s worth.

Sakura spends a good chunk of the rest of this section being pinned to a tree and being a damsel in distress. Gaara has separated some of his sand from his body to keep her pinned to the tree and it’s slowly constricting her. Unless Naruto beats Gaara, she’ll be crushed to death.

So glad she was able to break free from that Genjutsu just so she could do literally nothing useful and become a damsel in distress. Bravo.

I love how when Naruto’s thinking about examples of people acknowledging him, Sakura’s segment is asking him about Sasuke and him desperately trying to get her to pay attention to him….

Sakura Analysis Part 2 3

Hey, now. Sasuke showing concern for Sakura. Sasuke tells Naruto to save Sakura no matter what and to run away with her while he makes a distraction. He also includes her as one of his ‘precious comrades.’

Tell you the truth, though, all of the dialogue in play, this is just as much a NaruSasu moment as it is a SasuSaku moment.

Gamakichi refers to Sakura as Naruto’s girl….That probably irritated me more than it should.

Some people like to also give flak to Gaara for becoming Kazekage later and being a good friend to Konoha and Naruto when he’s basically a reformed serial killer. Many people don’t give him too much leeway just because of his sordid past (“Cool motive, still murder.”), but considering he also suffered from endless insomnia possibly since birth and had his sanity chewed on by a demon whenever he did get some semblance of rest, it makes more sense to pardon his actions and believe his development when he gets a better grasp on Shukaku and comes to change his views on love and affection. His sanity is slowly repairing itself, somewhat symbolically, through the love he witnesses and eventually obtains from his friends and family.

I’ll probably bring this back up way later down the line when we get to some more questionable reformations, but since we’re focusing on Gaara right now, I thought that’d be the best time to discuss that…..Sakura’s still stuck to a tree afterall.

Sakura Analysis Part 2 4

Sakura got unstuck from the tree. Caught by Sasuke, showing a tiny bit more caring for her.

Chapters 141 – 160 (The Aftermath of the Attack on Konoha + Finding Tsunade)

In a flashback, Sakura initially doesn’t believe that Naruto was responsible for defeating Gaara, saving her from the Sand Gauntlet. She’d rather gush over Sasuke and believe he was responsible and that he’s just being modest. Sasuke, however, does convince her, and even though she’s not seen thanking Naruto, she does smile and seemingly respect what he did.

Sakura’s only other appearance in this section is briefly being seen sitting at Sasuke’s hospital bed side saying “Sasuke….”

Yup, 20 chapters and those are Sakura’s only appearances. Granted, the story as of now doesn’t really call for her – Naruto’s been away for most of it, but still. If you were just casually reading this, you’d be seriously questioning whether Sakura’s actually a main character or not.

Chapters 161 – 180 (Tsunade’s Decision + The Battle Between the Sannin + Coming Home with the Fifth Hokage)

Sakura’s still not in a good portion of this part, but….Alright, since I didn’t really have much else to say, I wanted to make an observation. I am in no way slamming Tsunade, but I couldn’t help but make this parallel. Even though Tsunade was holding her own, she was still very evenly matched and nearly losing to Kabuto, whom Orochimaru stated earlier was only on level ground with Kakashi. No sleight to Kakashi either, but he’s not a Sannin. I’m just saying……is Tsunade basically the Sakura of her team?

I’m not saying the skill and power difference is as great as Sakura’s with Sasuke and Naruto, but she really doesn’t seem to be on the same level as Orochimaru or Jiraiya. During this battle she needed to be saved twice. And the first time she was facing Kabuto only.

So the first instance we see of Sakura in this chunk of the story is a brief image of her and Ino looking all crazy as Shikamaru goes off bad-mouthing all woman-kind.

And the first shot we actually see of her…..is…..At Sasuke’s bedside….And Tsunade notes that she seems to have been going there every single day. Wow.

Look, I get that this is kinda sweet, but from all I can tell she has literally done nothing with the time Naruto has been gone, which is a couple weeks I think, besides sit on her ass and mope about Sasuke. While Naruto was off working his ass off to learn the most powerful move he’s ever mastered, one that will become his signature attack technique throughout his lifetime, she’s been doing nothing. Even Rock Lee was training while actually being a PATIENT in this hospital after getting his body viciously mangled, but Sakura’s just been sitting there like a lump on a log….

What happened to the Sakura who was sick of people getting hurt protecting her and being gung-ho about proving herself? You don’t only do that in the field, Sakura. You have to actually be active when you don’t have missions. You have to learn new jutsu or make up your own. Kakashi might be out of commission for the moment, but surely there are other instructors who can take over for a while, if she absolutely needs someone to help her, even if there is a shortage of people in the village lately.

However, we clearly see most of the other teams are training in their off-time, whether it be as a hobby or not, even without an instructor nearby. Sakura has no excuse to be doing nothing.

And for the record, Sakura spends the rest of the first chapter she’s really been seen in for ages crying and hugging Sasuke…..

Meanwhile, in the next chapter, Sakura is peeling an apple for Sasuke and cutting it up into itty bitty pieces for him to eat more easily…..Sakura, sweetie, he’s just tired – he’s not a three year old.

Wow, I missed this the first time around. You’re internally cheering that you peeled…an…apple. Sakura, I know people like to joke that you’re useless, but when you’re starting to pat yourself on the back for successfully peeling fruit, I think it’s time to take a good hard look at yourself.

When Sakura presents the apples to him, he’s gotten himself so pissed off thinking of how Naruto is pulling ahead of him in skill and power that he growls at her and smacks the plate out of her hands. Then he just glowers out the window without a single thought of remorse or apology.

The girls really aren’t getting a lot of love in these few chapters anyway. Tenten’s just there, Hinata is shown being jealous that Kiba and Shino have hobbies and Ino keeps ragging on Choji for eating too much and being fat. She states that she would never get Sasuke if she ever put on weight, and tells Choji to stop eating too much or else he’ll never a girl. What a bitch.

I find this dialogue to be really weird too, because she should know very well that a large portion of Choji’s skill as a ninja comes from his weight.

The apple thing gets even worse when, gasp, Sasuke steps on one of the apple pieces on the floor. Dammit, Sasuke, you might as well be stepping on her heart!

During the match between Naruto and Sasuke, all she does is stand there looking on with concern and nearly kills herself trying to stop them from fighting (Can’t help but wonder how the series would have gone had they killed her. Not as a jab at Sakura, but something like their rivalry killing their teammate and friend would have seriously messed Naruto and Sasuke up for life.)

And once Kakashi stops them and saves Sakura, she just cries….And then Kakashi tries to cheer her up instead of talking to her like an adult….Seriously, “Don’t worry, things will be the way they used to be.”? You don’t know that. Don’t promise that, especially with Sasuke clearly going off the deep end. He did something similar when they returned for the Chunin exams when he told her the curse mark was nothing to worry about when it clearly is.

Just a moment ago, Iruka was talking to Naruto like a fellow shinobi about how he needs to help the village out and take missions whenever asked. And here Kakashi is basically ‘Santa is real’ing Sakura….

Later, Naruto tells Sakura to not get in his way. Oh goodie, even Naruto’s giving her shit now.

When Naruto, of all people, is subtly saying you just did something stupid and reckless, again, it’s probably time to take a good hard look at yourself.

Sakura does make the decision to go against Sasuke’s wishes and tell Naruto about the curse mark and Orochimaru, and he tells her it’s okay because Sasuke’s too strong to be tempted by Orochimaru. This is basically the same thing Kakashi’s doing, but at least here Naruto probably believes it himself.

Sakura’s also remembering all this while lazing about in the window. Ya know, times like these might prompt some characters to think they should’ve been stronger to stop their friends from fighting and maybe become more determined to train harder and get stronger so they won’t be ‘in the way’…….Some characters.

You might argue that there’s not enough time to give Sakura a lot of focus or develop her much right here, but Shikamaru, Choji and Rock Lee are all getting mounds of development in this section and none of the main plot involves them at all right now.

Meanwhile, Rock Lee’s story never fails to make me want to sob. Please give him all of the good things in the world forever.

Chapters 181-200 (Sasuke’s Departure – Battle Against the Sound Four for Sasuke: Choji and Neji’s battles)

 

The start of this section is one of the biggest moments for Sakura and SasuSaku in the entire series.

Sakura is keeping watch over the only path out of the village because she’s concerned Sasuke will leave, which he does. She starts off kinda funny because she tries to remind him of the time when he yelled at her for acting like Naruto had it made…..Ya know….being an orphan.

And he told her she made him sick.

She brought that up as the start of them being a team…..but it really wasn’t. The start of them being a team and opening up to each other a little was probably during the bell test.

Him yelling at her over what she said is definitely the first time he even slightly shared anything about himself to her, but he never said anything in regards to his own situation. He was just pointing out what a shitty thing it is to say that an ORPHAN has it good because their parents don’t nag them. Anyone would say that.

She goes on to talk about how fun it was being a team together, that she understands his loneliness and, even with her friends and family around her that, if Sasuke leaves, she’ll be very lonely too. This is kinda sweet, but sounds kinda shitty when it immediately follows her saying she understands Sasuke’s loneliness. Again, Sakura, no you don’t. You don’t understand loneliness. You definitely don’t understand the loneliness either Naruto or Sasuke has felt before.

Sakura Analysis Part 2 5

And I swear to god if someone brings up her being bullied for her forehead I will lose it.

It still doesn’t work. Sasuke affirms that they’re just all going on different paths. His is of revenge. Hers is…wherever.

Then she starts sobbing (though she’s been crying this entire time) and yells out that she’s so in love with Sasuke that she can’t stand it. She’ll do anything if he stays in Konoha. She’ll do whatever she can to make him happy – even help him exact revenge. Because swearing a blood oath over a crush…..that’s healthy.

Then….she does something I’ve always kinda hated Sakura for……she offers to go with him to Orochimaru.

……………..And then what, Sakura? And. Then. What? You’ll sit by cutting up apples for Sasuke as Voldemort trains him in the dark arts? You’ll join in? Have to hope their team has room for someone whose skills amount to high chakra control, pretend Genjutsu talent and cutting her hair.

I know it probably seems like I’m being too pissed at this, but I have justification. It’s not just that going with Sasuke to Orochimaru is dumb, it’s that she’s willing to BETRAY HER VILLAGE to stay with a guy who has only barely ever given her the time of day before because she can’t stop writing ‘Sakura Uchiha’ in her ninja textbooks.

You can shout your love for him all you want, Sakura. It’s not real. The fact that your most seemingly cherished moment with Sasuke is when he yelled at you and said you made him sick is telling enough.

The fact that you think you understand Sasuke’s feelings in the slightest, after acknowledging that you know what happened to his clan, just because you’ll be sad your eye candy won’t be around anymore is more than enough.

But the fact that you’re willing to either kiss his ass to make him stay or follow him, betraying your village as well as all of your friends and family, to someone who MURDERED THE THIRD HOKAGE and god knows how many other people – the guy who cursed Sasuke and caused him untold amounts of pain, is the frosting on the cake, the cherry on top and the little umbrella in the drink.

I can understand she has good intentions, really I do, but this confrontation paints her in such a bad and immature light. She’s twelve, so I guess I can’t hate on her too much for acting like this, even though you’d think she’d be much smarter and more mature by now, especially considering the maturity levels of a lot of her peers, but it doesn’t make it any less obnoxious.

Sasuke smirks and tells her she’ll never change, which I never really understood if that was meant to be a compliment or an insult. She threatens to scream if he leaves, which causes him to fwoosh behind her, thank her, which is kinda nice (How is Sasuke the non-annoying one in this situation?) and then knocks her out and leaves her on a bench.

The next day, Sakura tells Tsunade’s associates of what happened, which sends her into a bit of a panic because now Orochimaru has Sasuke in his clutches and can achieve his ends. Which just brings another stupid thing to light – Sakura, if you were so concerned Sasuke would leave the village soon to the point where you were seemingly pulling all-nighters watching the one path out of the village, why did you not tell Kakashi, Tsunade or any other authority figure? Why did you not have have some method of alerting them if Sasuke was attempting to leave? Maybe a clone or something or some sort of signal.

Even if she didn’t know exactly why Orochimaru wanted Sasuke, she knew he wanted him anyway. She knew the biggest enemy of Konoha at present, one who just pulled off a terrorist attack on Konoha and assassinated its leader, wanted Sasuke. Yet she didn’t think to maybe give a heads up to Kakashi? Leave a note on Tsunade’s desk?

Also, if she truly doesn’t know of Orochimaru’s intentions with Sasuke, that’s the fault of everyone continuing to treat her like a child and choosing to not share vital information like that with her. Not telling everyone, sure, but she’s his damned teammate. Naruto knows, doesn’t he? There’s no excuse.

You can argue that Sasuke would have found some way to leave no matter what they did, but if they really felt he was a danger to Konoha due to his willingness to walk into Orochimaru’s open embrace….lock the kid up. Throw his ass in prison. Use some sort of jutsu to keep him in the village. That’s kinda harsh, yeah, but it’s better than Orochimaru getting what he wants and needs to end Konoha entirely, killing untold amounts of people, and letting one of their most powerful and talented young ninja become another human dynamo with dark powers who intends on mowing down anyone in his way.

After Tsunade enlists Shikamaru to the task of retrieving Sasuke, given that all of the Chu and Jonin as well as some Genin are out on missions, and Shikamaru enlists his team of Genin, Sakura shows up and does what she does best.

Cry.

Shikamaru explains that they can’t bring Sakura along with them because she failed to persuade Sasuke to stay, and even though he doesn’t directly say it, she’d most certainly be a hindrance to them anyway given her lack of notable skills and power and her clear bias towards Sasuke, meaning she’d never be able to bring him back through force. So Sakura instead starts crying and begging Naruto to grant her ‘wish of a lifetime’ to bring Sasuke back.

Naruto obviously agrees, pointing out how much Sakura truly cares about Sasuke, which prompts Sakura to remember a time when she was talking to Naruto as a Sasuke doppleganger telling him how Naruto ruins everything, doesn’t understand her at all, if he had his way, supposedly, she’d never find love or happiness, and she can’t stand to have him anywhere near her. I’m not sure if this is her coming to the realization that that was Naruto or just that she’s reflecting on what a bitch she was then, but either way she realizes that she was wrong about Naruto and that he really does understand her and care.

Before I continue, can I point out that Konoha is very clearly hard up for help on missions, even Iruka told Naruto that he’d probably be called for missions to help out, Iruka himself has been pulled away from the academy to do missions, yet Sakura’s been in Konoha this whole time sitting on her ass and as far as I can tell no one’s asked her to do shit? Is this just convenient, like she hasn’t been picked through some random selection, or does no one….ya know….want her on the team? Or think she’d be useful? I can’t help but think the latter is very possible.

Where is Ino, by the way? I know she’d be nearly as bad as Sakura in the fogged focus area because of Sasuke, but where is she? Tenten’s nowhere to be found either, or Hinata. They explain Shino’s away on a mission with his father – where are all the girls at? Nearly all of the boys in Konoha, barring Rock Lee for obvious reasons, are going on this mission. Why isn’t at least Hinata, the one girl in all of Konoha whose heart doesn’t go pitter patter at the mere thought of Sasuke, being asked to go along? I know Shikamaru is sexist but at least explain where the girls are or why none of them were considered for this mission.

The end of the chapter has a picture of Sakura looking at the reader with a frown. Yeah, I’m not happy either, Sakura.

Sakura’s obviously not a part of a vast majority of these chapters after this point either. So….let’s continue to explore more reasons why practically every other character in this series is more interesting than Team 7 – Today’s excerpt: Neji and Choji….but mostly Choji.

I’m really enjoying that Neji has chilled out so much. He’s still a bit of a superior air around him, but it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be. Naruto and Kiba are being much more obnoxious in looking down on others, namely Choji and, for a minute, Shikamaru, in this part of the story, so it’s nice to see such a talented and skilled ninja actually be chill and helpful instead of snotty or emo.

As for Choji, his is another arc that never fails to bring a tear to my eye. Choji may be a bit on the annoying side when it comes to him outside of battles and missions, mostly because his shtick pretty much just amounts to ‘Haha, he’s fat. Haha he eats a lot.’ but when he’s set on something, he’s serious, he’s smart, he’s skilled and he’s incredibly determined to prove himself and defend his best friend, Shikamaru.

This is one of the best moments of badassery in the entire series, and it’s pulled off by the fat comic relief guy whose final form is a butterfly.

And not only that, but this plotline is actually relevant to our main topic.

Choji was ostracized from the other kids because he was overweight, yeah, but people also tend to think Choji’s stupid and useless on top of that, even though Shikamaru goes on record saying he is, by far, the strongest Genin in their group. Thanks to the support of Shikamaru, he has been able to keep his head up, continue moving forward and become a great ninja, no matter what others, including Ino and Asuma, who should know better, think of him. He’s able to take down one of the Sound Four, willfully giving his life to do so.

And, no lie, when I first saw this part of the story in the anime I legitimately thought Choji had died. And I cried. This storyline made me cry over the only person in the Chunin exams who had a more pitiful performance than Sakura – and that’s counting Tenten, because at least in the anime her fight was a little entertaining.

Especially when he reached the trees and saw the arrow carvings, knowing Shikamaru put them there, realizing Shikamaru had enough trust in Choji’s abilities to do as he claimed he would, beat the enemy and catch up.

We keep getting similar characters who are put down for being useless, talentless burdens on their teams like Choji and Rock Lee, and when it comes to their times to shine they get these grand, amazing storylines that pluck every heartstring you have. But when Sakura, a main friggin’ character with this same problem, is given a shot at proving herself she ends up with either a haircut or a double KO against people like Ino. Choji just beat one of Orochimaru’s bodyguards, who has a curse mark, who triggered his final form with this mark, and Sakura….couldn’t beat….Ino.

Also, I really like the dynamic the five of them have. I mean, yeah, Kiba and Naruto are generally being irritating brats, but they work really well together. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses that work in tandem with the others, and, given a bit more time, they’d probably be a powerhouse of a ninja squad…….still salty there’s not a single girl here, though.

Neji’s fight is not as interesting, in my opinion. It’s more tense seeing him actually struggle with someone and not constantly blather on about destiny and fate and whatnot (He does bring it up at the end, though), but I think it drags on a bit long. Just a little bit. Also, I can’t get as emotionally charged from Neji’s story when his crescendo is that so many people don’t see him as a failure, but as a genius and he can’t let those people down. They try to do the same death fakeout that Choji got, but, again, it’s not tugging my heartstrings as much.

————————————

Overall, this cluster of chapters really doesn’t reflect well on Sakura, which is shame because the first part of this analysis series actually gave me quite a bit more respect for her and now it’s fading pretty fast. There are so many more moments where she frustrated the hell out of me and much fewer moments where she was actually redeeming herself. And, sadly, none where she was really impressive.

I’m debating how much of that is her fault because she’s simply not a part of most of the storylines that are happening in this section. She’s just not given anything to do. Chapters 1-100 focused almost exclusively on Team 7. The Hidden Mist arc, the first few sections of the Chunin exam – all of them had the team together and gave focus to them as a team, usually. But the start of this cluster is where the team starts falling apart, which I guess means Sakura just gets less focus by default.

I can easily say that a majority of that isn’t her fault, but when you think about it, it really is.

She’s shaking too? Have some dignity, Sakura.

She’s not really part of the Chunin exam arc after the prelims. That’s kinda her fault because she hasn’t been doing enough training to beat Ino, of all people.

She’s not being given special training for the main event of the Chunin exams because she’s not in them because see above.

She has little to no use in the attack on Konoha because she hasn’t bothered trying to train and improve herself during the Chunin exam off time anyway – despite her drive being to get stronger and more skilled so she won’t be useless and cause people more pain and grief.

She’s not of any use in the battle against Gaara, and is, depressingly, reduced to a literal damsel in distress.

She’s not involved in the part with retrieving Tsunade, which is the first instance where the fault was entirely out of her hands. However, the entire time this was going on, she was literally doing nothing but doting on comatose Sasuke every day instead of training. They could have easily brought her along, especially considering she’ll be Tsunade’s student later. That could have made for a great baseline of Team 7 connecting with their Sannin counterparts to seek out mentors. But nope.

When Naruto returns, she’s somehow 10x worse in the whiny useless crybaby department to the point where even Kakashi seemingly babies her now. She cuts up an apple for Sasuke like he’s a preschooler and does nothing but cry and nearly force Naruto and Sasuke to murder her as she pulls an Ash in Pokemon The First Movie.

She makes a 10% heartwarming 90% stupid plea, while sobbing, to make Sasuke stay, not properly planning this out at all and nearly betraying her village to stay with him. Then she cries some more to Naruto, not allowed on the mission to get Sasuke back because she’s too useless and Sasuke crazy, and begs him to bring her back.

End of chapter cluster.

It’s a shame, too, because most of what we’ve been getting with the development of side characters, such as Shikamaru, Choji, Rock Lee and even Neji, has been pretty damn great. Why is one of the main characters falling behind so much? Why is Sakura seemingly not even making an effort to do what she keeps saying she wants to do? I mentioned that I thought Sakura was lost, which I still think she is, but she can at least make efforts to improve in the meantime. Her screentime shouldn’t constantly rely on either Naruto or Sasuke.

I probably come off as a bit harsh on her through this part, but I was really starting to lose my patience with her. We go these long gaps without seeing her at all and whenever we do see her, nine times out of ten, she’s reinforcing all of the negative things people have been saying about her for years.

But fear not, reader. We still have a long way to go…whether that’s good or bad is up in the air, but considering Part 3 will be chapters 201-300, which means we’re finally dipping our toes into the time skip chapters, I’d say we have at least a little to look forward to.


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I Just Hit 500 WordPress Followers!

500 Followers
I literally just hit 500, but I have 501? Who are you, phantom follower?!

What a nice early Christmas gift – The Anime Madhouse just hit 500 followers on WordPress! 😀

spongebob dance

I wish I had something more special written up for this or something unique to review to celebrate, but with the holidays and other hectic stuff, I didn’t prepare anything. Still, thank all of you so much for following me, reading my rambles, rants and reviews of varying levels of sanity, commenting, and just overall being really awesome. ♥

I’ve been doing this for a really long time now, and all of you give me the drive to keep doing this in the tough spots and the excitement to post some of my favorite pieces. I’m a firm believer that you should always write for yourself first, but just knowing some other people are reading and enjoying my work makes it all the more fun to do it.

To all of my 500 followers, even the bots, have a very Merry Christmas, a bunch of Happy Holidays and an awesome new year!

~FiddleTwix